Mobility and Health: Huge Today and Even Bigger Tomorrow

Carl Weinschenk

There is a general acknowledgement that health care is a natural fit for mobility and that the two realms will move forward together into a bright future.

The generality, while most likely true, often comes without a lot of specificity. That’s why this terrific infographic from ReadWrite Mobile is worthwhile. The presentation is full of interesting and useful information that helps create a much clearer picture of what the mobile health care sector actually looks like.

For instance, the writers looked at the penetration of 14 types of apps that consumers were using in April. That’s a while ago, but the basics no doubt haven’t changed and, in any case, it’s understandable that there would be lag time in the amassing of such specific and diverse stats.

The takeaway is that one application did not dominate. The highest usage was only 16.2 percent (for cardio-related apps). Many hovered in the single digits. These include personal health records (0.9 percent), emergency apps (2.5 percent), women’s health (7.1 percent) and mental health (5.4 percent). The infographic is divided into several different areas and each is as interesting as the app breakdown.

The future looks good — but not without a cloud or two. One of those clouds — the intersection of mobility and regulation — is described in the infographic’s introduction:

Several things have slowed adoption of mobile in healthcare. Antiquated policies designed for a different era have been a major factor. For instance, what does it mean to be HIPAA compliant in a mobile world? HIPAA regulations rule how healthcare practitioners can store and transfer data on patients to protect both the privacy of the patient and the liability to doctors and nurses. HIPAA regulations are fairly complex and rigid (for a good reason, to be sure) and have scared off some mobile healthcare (mHealth) startups - at least until HIPAA can be updated to reflect the change in the technological landscape.

Regulatory headaches notwithstanding, the upbeat nature of the infographic was echoed by EHRIntelligence. The firm reports more than half of the 53 percent of adults in the U.S. with a smartphone use it to access medical information. In other words, a bit more than half of a half of all adults utilize this path to better care. These folks have a lot to choose from, according to the company. It says that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 health care apps for iOS and Android; about 17,000 are “geared towards purely medical use.” The story does a good job of describing some of those uses.

Despite the positive results so far, the industry should be singing the Frank Sinatra song “The Best Is Yet to Come.” InformationWeek suggests that the changes in health care that focus reimbursement on patient outcomes will push mobility even higher.

A quote from the story sums it up:


"If you can imagine a world in which physicians and hospitals are paid based on the outcomes of patients, some of these technologies may be very integral to them getting paid and enabling them to do the right thing for the patient," says Dr. Mohit Kaushal, chief strategy officer and executive VP of business development for the West Wireless Health Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization.

Mobility’s use in health care is part of many people’s every day experience. What is a bit surprising isn’t the extent to which these changes have already permeated the health care system; it’s that they are set to accelerate as health care evolves.



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