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Dec 5 2011   12:15PM GMT

Examining mobile health’s value proposition



Posted by: Beastwood
HIMSS, mHealth, mHealth Summit, Mobile devices and telehealth, mobile health

WASHINGTON — The value proposition for mobile health in the United States is found largely in its potential to alter the industry’s existing fee-for-service structure, provided that security and regulatory challenges can be addressed, today’s panelists at the mHealth Summit noted.

Recent survey data from mHIMSS (registration required), the mobile arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, suggests that smartphones are literally everywhere in today’s hospitals, with more than 90% of doctors using them.

However, technology is outpacing policy, said Patricia Wise, vice president of health information systems for HIMSS, as fewer than 30% of facilities has mobile device use policies. That’s a bit scary, since, according to mHIMSS, roughly 75% of mobile health users look up personal health information. (To be fair, 84% also look up non-PHI such as clinical research data.) Moreover, as a recent study from the Ponemon Institute shows, lax mobile security leads to health data breaches.

Security and medical liability policy need to catch up, said Donald Casey, CEO of the West Wireless Health Institute — especially if, as envisioned in health care reform, clinical applications export information into huge data stores that are “dredged retrospectively” for research and quality purposes. It’s no surprise to Casey that the medical home model ranks among the earliest adopters of mobile health technology — there is little red tape to hamper innovation.

When policies are set and regulations ease, panelists agreed that mobile health innovation will come to the health care industry in the form of improved chronic disease management, faster patient referrals, increased telemedicine adoption and, ultimately, health care delivery reform (as opposed to health care reform). This will only succeed, noted Xavier Williams, senior vice president for health care and the public sector for AT&T, if patient data is first “integrated clinically” and then shared via health information exchange.

AT&T pursues such technology not just for business purposes or as a “labor of love,” as Williams put it, but also because the telecom’s annual health care expenses approach $6 billion. The bottom line may, in fact, be mobile health’s biggest value proposition.

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