Is the term ‘mHealth’ still relevant?

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On Intel’s Health & Life Sciences blog Jeffrey Zavaleta MD asks “Is the Term ‘mHealth’ Still Relevant?”.

mHealth Insights

Today’s world is mobile by default. Everyone is connected. Everyone expects to have information at their fingertips. Everyone expects to have understanding and meaning immediately available to them. That’s why I think the term “mHealth” is redundant

It’s surprising to read a Paediatric Anaesthesiologist thinking like this as I’ve noticed this is a common misconception among technologists who are approaching the healthcare industry. It doesn’t surprise me how different your outlook of the world changes when you working day has you sitting in front of a widescreen monitor all day with broadband connectivity that makes HD video connectivity to your colleagues available at the click of a button, but I’m surprised anyone working in Paediatric Surgery isn’t fully aware that the vast majority of hospitals don’t yet provide any means for mobile access to the vital sign data or observation data being collected from Patients sitting in billion dollar Hospitals.

Sadly in 2016 the data exchange rate in healthcare is nowhere near this level eg. spend a day in a leading teaching hospital and you can watch highly paid Consultant Endocrinologists fanning their faces with the diligently compiled Patient diaries that Patients have had to physically bring to the appointment, observations on the wards being made with error prone paper based systems, etc.

We can start talking about a healthcare world that is mobile by default when medical devices are embedded with connectivity but sadly we’re still many years away from achieving this as the vast majority of Diabetics have NEVER uploaded their digital glucometer readings to the only electronic record that exists (which is normally the EHR that ‘belongs’ to their Doctor or Hospital and that they even permitted to access).

If we are going to define a term, then that implies that there is something on the other side of that term. What’s the opposite of mHealth? Is it stationary health? Or siloed health?

As I coined the term mHealth you might like to try the definition I put forward years ago inspired by Tomi Ahonen‘s explanation of mobile as the newest mass media eg. mHealth is the leverage of Mobile for Health, where Mobile is the newest mass media and Health is the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.

The opposite of mHealth is pretty much the situation we have today where delegates at the world’s biggest digestive health event being held in San Diego this week are being publicly scolded for trying to share pictures with their mobile phones:

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The opposite of mHealth is the situation we have today where incredibly expensive healthcare services don’t make sense to the born mobile generation and Parents are so fed up they’re forced into having to hack the medical devices that their children need to use:

Tim OReilly Quote

“Five years ago, when smartphones and mobile devices were first coming on the scene, mHealth was an appropriate description. We were still defining what it meant to be truly connected. We underappreciate how radical the transformation has been in a very short period of time. In about seven years, these mobile devices have completely changed our expectations. They have changed the way my children interact with technology”

This isn’t the most bizarre version of the history of mobile I’ve heard being shared by an ‘expert’ but for me this statement just proves Jeffrey Zavaleta MD is another one of us digital immigrants who has a lot of catch up to do. Be careful of taking the advice of experts who think in this way about mobile. I’ve had a Smartphone for more than 16 years and while I’m not ‘Born Mobile’ or even a Mobile expert I have spent my time since learning every day from the people who imagined, designed, built and sold them and there’s little/nothing stopping you from too eg. Philippe KahnDavid Woods, Tomi Ahonen, Tim Cook, etc.

“Mobile, to me, is not a product. It’s not a category. Mobile is an experience that could be better defined by terms like available, accessible, convenient, engaging, informative and even entertaining. When I think of mobile, I immediately think that I can get my needs met. When it comes to healthcare, mobile technology is a means to provide patient care. In my book, that’s just called healthcare”

If you too struggle to understand Mobile as a new mass media and the 8 already identified unique attributes it has as a new mass media please stop what you’re doing and watch this lecture by Tomi Ahonen from 2009. Then start understanding the need for Healthcare organisations to go Mobile First.

“So, it’s time to rebrand the term “mHealth.” My vote is for “connected health” because everything is connected right now. We saw this at the most recent HIMSS Conference, where connected devices are connecting caregivers in different settings. That’s what connected care is all about”

Intel’s attempt to get people using the terms ‘Connected Health’ instead of ‘mHealth’ reminds me of the daft logic Johnson&Johnson and Qualcomm persisted with because some outdated digital immigrant execs in those companies thought the opportunity for healthcare was ‘wireless’ but at least they had the benefit of not having seen Apple transform the mobile industry with the iPhone (and make itself the world’s biggest and most profitable company in the process).

Go into your waiting room and poll some actual Patients. Ask them what they think ‘connected health’ means and I assure you they’ll look at you like you have two heads. Most Patients already think that their care is connected. That’s why when they get access to their healthcare record they are dumbfounded at all the errors and mistakes – “if you’d only asked me”, “of all the horrible things that happened”, etc.

Then go into an Apple Store and poll some actual Patients at the Genius Bar. Ask them what they would think if their interactions with their care were designed like the interactions they have with services they access with their iPhone.

I think it’s clear that’s what we should be seeking to achieve in the Healthcare Industry. Let’s drop the Health not the ‘m’ in mHealth

Mobile plus Health plus adoption equals Mobile

Related Posts

“Majority of mHealth apps fail to engage patients” Feb, 2016

“Laurie Orlov: mHealth Mania – beware the hype” Feb 2013

“Don’t immediately believe the mhealth hype – Dave Clifford” Nov, 2012

Why we’re more likely to drop the “Health” than the “m” in mHealth, July 2012

Does “mHealth” really do more harm than good?, March 2012

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