There have been many predictions of when mHealth technologies will break through in a big way. I will mention what I consider a few important recent events which are indicative of mHealth technology’s ‘arrival’ in the mainstream healthcare arena.
1. The HIMSS acquisition of the mHealth Summit. In my view this acquisition sends a great message. It signifies the merger of what I see as more of an academic/clinically oriented conference and one which is more commercially driven. At the last mHealth Summit I was a bit underwhelmed at the clinical track of presentations, with few meaningful studies presented. HIMSS, on the other hand, is much more represented by clinicians. I am not suggesting that they need to conform to each other. On the contrary, the diverse strengths of each conference are necessary for the success of healthcare technologies and the education of individuals involved in their development and utilization. Moreover, it represents the importance of interoperability in the adoption and success of mHealth apps, other technoligies, and telehealth. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that any day Meangingful Use Stage 2 is reported to be announced. Stage 2 is important to the adoption of patient portals, which has significant implications with regards to mHealth apps and remote patient monitoring. The portals will be the way in which patient-derived filtered or unfiltered data will be combined with the EHR and accessible both to patients, providers, payers, caregivers, and hopefully no one else.
2. Partnering of diverse commercial entities in the Mhealth space. It is clear that for mhealth to be successful, the participation, cooperation, and partnership of diverse stakeholders is necessary. Some important examples of partnerships which have formed in the recent past, signaling the importance of mHealth to healthcare initiatives in the future include: Aetna’s acquiring iTriage’s app maker Healthagen, an investment in Airstrip Technologies by HCA, and the partnership of Agamatrix and Sanofi. There have also been initiatives by telecommunications companies to facilitate development and adoption of mHealth (the partnering of Verizon and Duke University, for example).
3. The West Wireless Health Institute’s announcement of a wireless open framework that enables healthcare delivery organizations to implement and utilize a wireless infrastructure much like they would a common grade utility. This has profound implications with regards to instituting customized mHealth technologies, improving security and interoperability.
4. The mHealth Regulatory Coalition’s submission of recommendations to the FDA with recommendations regarding the FDA draft guidance document regarding mobile medical apps. This is an elegant, well thought out document discussing in detail issues of great importance to members of the mHealth technology community. This initiative cannot be underappreciated, nor its importance underestimated.
5. The undertaking of a medical app certification program by Happtique. While the details of the review process were not delineated in the announcement of this project, it aims to address fundamental questions: which apps might be most clinically useful, effective, and therefore worthwhile to buy from a provider standpoint. It might not, after analysis be the best method employed, however the initiative itself deserves praise. There are more than 6000 wellness, fitness, and other healthcare apps. To initiate a way of looking at quality is natural. This may pave the way for other evaluation processes or it may become the gold standard. Time will tell.
The above events, demonstrating a united effort by diverse contributors signals both the scope of importance and cooperation necessary for mHealth to succeed.