This week I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking around the topic of mobile health thanks to all the #mHealth14 tweets I’ve been seeing on Twitter. One of the major takeaways I’ve seen from this year’s mHealth Summit and previous mHealth Summits was the prediction that one day mobile health and connected health and all the other variations will one day just be health.
I think it is true that mobile and connected health will eventually just be standard healthcare. However, it’s not today. In fact, I think that’s why most hospitals haven’t hopped on board mobile health yet. They are waiting for mobile health to be a standard of health. This tweet seems to capture some of this feeling.
— HIMSS (@HIMSS) December 10, 2014
Most of the hospitals I know see mobile health as a tool as opposed to a solution. Is it because we’re early in the market? Maybe, but I think there’s a lot more to this discussion.
When I think about hospitals and mHealth, I think there are three ways that they are adopting these mobile health technologies: existing vendors, rogue apps, and research dollars.
This is the most common use of mobile health in hospitals. However, most hospital CIOs and other hospital IT professionals wouldn’t even think of it as mobile health. They already think of it as health.
The best example of this is with the EHR vendors. Many of them are rolling out mobile interefaces for their EHR. Is that mobile health? Absolutely. However, the hospital didn’t really think about it as mobile health. They thought of it as implementing their EHR software. It just turns out that the mobile health implementation of EHR software made sense in that situation.
We see this happening across a wide variety of hospital apps. You can be sure that this will continue and only accelerate as these enterprise software vendors finally get their mobile health development complete.
Every hospital I know has made a lot of effort to manage mobile devices. Search for BYOD and surrounding topics and you’ll find a ton of conversation about this topic. One major part of this discussions is around rogue apps. Even if the hospital doesn’t allow the rogue mHealth app on the hospital devices, that’s not going to stop a doctor from downloading it on their personal smart phone. Sure, some hospitals have policies against some of this stuff, but rogue apps are alive and well in hospitals all over the country.
Rogue apps reminds me of shadow IT. I guess that rogue apps are a form of shadow IT. So, the concept isn’t new. What’s the lesson? Find a way to empower your users to be able to bring in outside apps that can be used in the hospital. Just because you play ignorant doesn’t mean your hospital’s not responsible for them just the same.
This is where I see most of the mHealth efforts by hospitals. If it’s not coming from a current vendor, then they usually use some sort of research dollars to “experiment” with mobile health. For some reason it feels better for a hospital to hide behind a “research project” or a “pilot implementation.” Some of it has to do with the procurement and approval process. Other times, they’re just afraid to commit to something that’s not fully tested.
I don’t think mHealth being a pilot project or research project is a bad thing. In fact, I think this is the major reason why mobile health and connected health are still separate from health. Until we have enough time to prove out these ideas, the healthcare establishment won’t be ready to accept them. Once they’ve proven themselves, they’ll just become a standard part of healthcare.
Is mobile going to play an important part of the future of healthcare? Absolutely. Will it take some time to prove out the various methodologies in order for the healthcare establishment to adopt these mHealth technologies? Yes. This is how I see the evolution of mHealth in hospitals. What have you seen?