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Nov 13 2013   12:23PM GMT

Rapid growth and regulation among top mHealth trends

Posted by: adelvecchio
mHealth, mHealth applications, mhealth apps, mHealth regulation

th_1384363308_amit1Guest post by Amit Gupta, M.D., president, Doc Halo

As doctors and healthcare executives iron out how to use EMRs and other enterprise software that has consumed their attention in recent years, their next IT challenge is close at hand. It’s the mobile device that, in all likelihood, will go everywhere they do.

Mobile health is exploding. Current innovations range from exercise apps to mobile health records to connected sleep apnea devices, with many more in development.

MHealth’s rise will bring tremendous benefits to both healthcare providers and patients as mobile devices become a routine feature of communication, diagnosis and treatment. It will ultimately make healthcare more convenient and efficient. But the move toward mobile brings concerns, too. Among them are government regulation, data security and the question of who will evaluate the data generated by mHealth apps.

Here are some mHealth trends to watch while those issues are settled.

  • Rapid growth: Global mHealth revenue is likely to approach $21 billion in 2018, up from an estimated $6.6 billion this year, according to a report by the research firm MarketsandMarkets. Drivers will include increased attention to chronic diseases, the proliferation of smartphones and high-speed networks and the quest for lower healthcare costs.
  • Increasing regulation: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated on Sept. 25 that it would focus regulation on medical apps that “are intended to be used as an accessory to a regulated medical device” or “transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device.” But those rules could change. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) recently said she wants to give the FDA more resources and authority to regulate mHealth apps.
  • Secure messaging: Physician have confided in us many times that they send patient information to their colleagues via text message. They frequently receive messages from office staff and call centers by text, as well. The practice is growing more common, as smartphone adoption among new physicians is nearly 100%. The problem is, this type of data transmission is not HIPAA-compliant, and it could result in significant fines for healthcare providers and their organizations. Doc Halo provides encrypted, HIPAA-compliant secure text messaging that works on iPhone, Android and your desktop computer.
  • Higher prices: MHealth apps stand apart from the crowd, in many cases, because of their cost. Consumers seem willing to pay more than 99 cents for apps that improve their lives, as Inside Mobile Apps noted. A few in the health space sell for more than $100.
  • Insurance reimbursement for apps: MHealth apps would take off at a quicker pace if they were covered by payers. Reimbursement models that include them are few and far between, but there’s evidence that might be changing. Newer reimbursement models that pay providers for keeping patients well, rather than for providing more services, could also encourage mHealth adoption.

The age of mobile health is an exciting time for providers and their patients. Smart companies will find ways to overcome the hurdles, and design technologies that make it easier for physicians and other clinicians to do their jobs and help patients be well.

Dr. Gupta is the president and co-founder of Doc Halo. He completed his Master’s in Clinical Research from Mayo Clinic and fellowships in Outcomes Research and Hematology – Oncology at the University of Cincinnati. He currently practices Oncology at Springfield Clinic. Dr. Gupta’s interest is to understand and improve healthcare communication, especially amongst different doctors involved in an individual patient’s care. “Timely and effective communication is the key to improving patient outcomes.”


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