mHealth (also written as m-health or mobile health) is a term used for the practice of medical and public health supported by mobile devices. It is fast becoming a top priority for large, complex healthcare organizations seeking to make electronic records, patient information, etc. accessible to a wide range of constituencies via the device or appliance of choice. And its importance is not to be underestimated, as it offers the mobility and flexibility necessary for the user to react instantaneously to the provider, thereby facilitating wellness and avoidance of critical outcomes that require intense and expensive treatments.
Many quality applications already exist that create opportunities for physicians and clinicians in their quest to provide efficient quality healthcare. These applications are available from any number of sources and on a variety of platforms, and are designed to keep people healthy, manage existing diseases, increase health literacy, manage medical information, and ensure medical compliance.
Yet despite the growing importance of mHealth, healthcare payer, provider and pharmaceutical service providers are finding themselves increasingly challenged to find mHealth platforms that can accommodate global 99.9999 percent availability of critical data, as well as provide different levels of information access to physicians, clinicians, pharmacists, patients, plan members and others.
Competitive Cooperation Is the Key
There are several types of mHealth providers. One is phone company carriers that offer voice, telephone and data-driven products based on a device with a set of applications (for example, Android, Blackberry, and iPhone.) Hardware provider organizations such as Dell, HP, and Apple also offer applications based on proprietary operating systems. And providers of integration services have created services based on these separate and distinct platforms (for example, Macintosh versus Microsoft.)
While these different types of mHealth providers have traditionally competed separately for new business opportunities, it is becoming abundantly clear that successful provision of mHealth services with its diversity of needs across traditional market boundaries will require a cooperative effort among these provider types. Healthcare organizations have each embraced the major carriers of choice, and have invested heavily in hardware devices and appliances including iPads, Blackberry, and Android. And most have a healthy mix of these given the individual needs of thousands of physicians and clinicians located across national organizations within diverse settings such as clinics, hospitals, billing offices, and home health.
Indeed, the provision of mHealth services is going to require unique relationships between provider organizations to address the entire spectrum from research and development, implementation, and ongoing support and maintenance to the ongoing provision of new technologies as the marketplace and regulatory compliance demands. There will not be a “one size fits all” solution, but a requirement for unique cooperation and partnerships among the client and multiple service and application providers.
Mastering the art of service provider cooperation to provide the continuum of care needs across an ever changing and somewhat controversial market space will be a formidable challenge, but is an absolute must in order for mHealth to deliver on its promise and need for availability of a robust set of tools anytime and anywhere.