We’ve all had at least one frustrating experience with the health care system. A moment where you’re left thinking: “There has to be a better way of doing this.” For me, these moments often come when the paper-filled world of health care doesn’t jive with my increasingly mobile-based lifestyle. (You can count me in the 35% of all U.S. adults who own a smart phone.)
Mobile health (mHealth) technology offers a potential solution to connecting an increasingly mobile population (83% of U.S. adults own a cell phone) to our experiences with the health care system.
For me, this means a world where after you visit your doctor, the name and dosage of your prescriptions are transferred from your doctor’s electronic health record system to an application in your phone, along with the name of the condition you’re being treated for. The condition links over to a website trusted by the physician that has more information about that condition, which you can read on your own time. From there, you can send your physician additional questions you have through a secure messaging system. That same app would also allow you to enter your symptoms as you experience them, so you aren’t stuck trying to recall their frequency and intensity at your next appointment.
All of this and much more could be possible in the near future, according to a new report from PwC resulting from interviews with 1,805 patients, physicians and health care payer executives. Patients surveyed for the report said they thought mHealth would help improve the convenience (52%), cost (46%), and quality (48%) of their health care within the next three years. Sixty percent of the physicians and payers surveyed said that widespread adoption of mHealth is inevitable.
Despite agreement that mHealth is coming, people interviewed for the report noted there are substantial hurdles to jump through before we’ll see widespread adoption of mHealth solutions. According to the report:
- mHealth will require a big shift in how the health care system operates—and most health care systems hate change. mHealth tends to focus on prevention and, unfortunately, most health care systems don’t reimburse enough for prevention.
- Players within the health care system—health care providers, patients, payers—all have different interests in mHealth and these differing interests will make it challenging to implement solutions.
- For mHealth adoption to become widespread, any solutions must appeal to payers, because patients are “highly sensitive to price” and won’t be willing to foot the bill for mHealth technology.
The report offers several recommendations for overcoming these hurdles. The two that resonated most with me:
- In developing mHealth solutions, focus on actually providing a solution to a business problem; don’t focus on what technology can do. In my work, we say this all the time: Don’t focus on the tactics, focus on the strategy. From there, the best tactics to achieve the strategy will follow.
- mHealth creators should build partnerships to create solutions that can be part of an mHealth ecosystem rather than stand on their own. These partnerships can help identify the best ways to implement a solution and move its adoption along. Interoperability with other mobile health solutions is one of the ingredients to a successful mHealth model, says the report.
All that said, even a perfectly designed mHealth solution requires something bigger to be successful: it requires behavior change on the part of everyone involved in the health care system. All physicians will need to be electronic so that data can be shared with their patients, and they’ll need to input quality data so patients understand what they are reading. Payers will need to provide incentives, likely financial, for physicians to be active participants in making these solutions work. Finally, patients will need to take an active role in their care: using mHealth solutions to track their symptoms, interact with their physician and research their conditions (in other words, become a “quantified patient”). All of this will take time, but like the people interviewed for the PwC report, I believe we will get there.