Things we need to unlearn before we can see the future of mHealth

This presentation by futurist Jack Uldrich (Hattip: Telecare Aware) has inspired me to create a list of things that I think we need to unlearn to appreciate the future of mHealth:

Someone has all the answers

I think the fact that this list is read/write is a good example of this. Please feel encouraged to correct, add or suggest anything you think in the comments.

mhealth is new

Wrong. Wireless technologies were used to save hundreds of lives only a few months after their invention and the use of mobile for healthcare use cases has been critical to the proliferation and adoption of mobile devices and networks.

mhealth is a subset of eHealth

This is like suggesting TV is a subset of the Cinema. It’s not. Mobile is different, it’s the newest mass media and as with previous mass media we just don’t yet appreciate and understand enough about it yet to see the differences.

mHealth has to be able to replicate conventional Healthcare processes

A device that we always have with us, that’s always on, always connected opens up new opportunities that weren’t possible previously yet an inability to unlearn previous ways of doing things explains the wide interest in the mobile industry to add clinical tools to mobile phones (eg. ultrasound probes) and the lack of focus on adding mobile connectivity to digital clinical tools (eg. connectivity to medical records) or mobile informed access to the advice of clinicians (eg. 3G Doctor).

Doctors have to take a history

In many cases it’s better if patients give their own history using tools – especially if those tools remove the pressures and costs associated with a Doctors time and have immortalised and built upon the best history taking skills of the worlds most experienced Doctors.

Patient access to their records increases the risks

In the healthcare industry we have a common mistaken belief that with patients having digital access to their health records they’ll all become hypochondriacs, want testing for everything and they’ll use this data to sue their carers. The opposite is true. With access to their records patients become responsible, engaged and interested. Data procts Doctors so that they provide more informed care that can help their patients move to a more self service model of care.

Patients won’t pay for Healthcare

The existence of healthcare services that are free at the point of care (eg. the NHS) or covered by employers and insurers doesn’t mean that patients are going to want, expect or even try and claim back for a $.50 cent mHealth App.

Documentation of a patient consultation is time consuming and expensive

There is abundant evidence that this is not the case. Documentation helps improve our understanding of disease progression, ensures patients are listened, makes sure things aren’t missed/forgotten, helps patients recollect information better and increases the potential for a Doctors advice to have impact.

mHealth needs 4G, LTE, etc

When you’ve seen broadcast quality HD video sent over 3G, sent ECG’s from a smartphone over EDGE (2G) and made high quality video consultations over 3G, it’s obvious there is no need for developers to await the next big promised network technology to be built, rolled out and tested.

We have to do something

As Jack points out very effectively in his talk (at 6.20) the biggest single indicator for treatment is the background of the specialist. For me this reinforces the need for patients to consult with generalists who have a balanced view of patient needs and what can/should be done before we go hunting out a treatment/test from someone who provides that treatment/test.

UPDATE: Some suggestions that have been made from members of the mHealth networking group on Linkedin

mHealth is about cellphones and apps

“It is about making healthcare mobile and delivering it where and when the patient needs it, which is essential to chronic disease management”

Andy Boyle, Director of Marketing, Diabetes at Sanofi USA, New York

Stop trying to make the medical record a billing document

“mHealth should be viewed as just another way to deliver care or information about care. Lose the technology focus for a moment and we can clean up the delivery process from cradle to grave, so to speak, and then all modes of delivery will be more efficient”

Bruce Laidlaw, President, Commsoft Systems Ltd, Canada

We need to move away from the EMR as a billing tool

“The m comes into play as a means of making information available any time any place, but the core concepts of healthcare main the same. Evaluate, Diagnose, Treat, Review are the main steps and how we use technology to do these 4 steps is the important thing”

George Margelis, General Manager, Care Innovations (an Intel GE joint venture), Australia

We need to unlearn the notion that mHealth is only mobile phones?

“Having seen the resolution on the 3rd generation iPad this week, I think we just need to distinguish between portable and fixed devices from now on. The fact that you can capture, playback and then curate high quality video on a tablet must be huge for in field diagnosis, chronic disease management and all kinds of (personal) coaching and training. It hasn”t really taken off until now because the curating tools haven’t been very easy to use”

Jonathan Marks, Media Mentor to Class of 2012 StartUps, Startupbootcamp

we need to learn to de emphasise the M and focus on the health

“Mobile technology is just one of many tools we use in delivering high quality healthcare, the key is integrating the tools and services available to provide a solution that is optimised for the individual patient. The danger we face is by overemphasising the technology aspect we may dilute the healthcare benefits of what we do”

George Margelis, General Manager, Care Innovations (an Intel GE joint venture), Australia

About David Doherty
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