At an mHealth conference I recently attended, Kaiser Permanente Information Technology’s senior vice president stated, “Our integrated model, scale and technology are providing the foundation for delivering truly real-time, personalized healthcare. That is our journey and this is our obligation.”

He hit on one extremely important point – personalized healthcare. But there’s another critical reality in the healthcare industry…consumers and consumer convenience are driving the ways in which healthcare companies will support patients’ needs, and it’s all around the technologies most of us use today.

Think about it in the context of mobile technologies. Mobile is:

  • Pervasive – 91 percent of Americans own a mobile phone and 75 percent own a PC
  • Always on – Users access their smart phone more than two hours per day
  • Simple and convenient – Little or no training is required for usage
  • Location aware – in America, 150 million GPS locator devices were sold in 2009
  • Context aware – i.e., sensor technologies such as OnStar, the in-vehicle security system

With mobile being such an integral part of our lifestyle, consumers will push for increasing mobile health (mHealth) capabilities to research, access, and pay for healthcare. And consumers’ influence on how healthcare providers leverage technological capabilities potentially extends far beyond mHealth. Questions healthcare companies must consider include: Are consumers leveraging social media to select healthcare providers, learn about service prices to enable them to negotiate with healthcare providers, etc.? Will consumers push to pay for healthcare via PayPal-type services or a smart phone application, rather than by credit or debit card? Should healthcare providers establish their own online medical condition search capabilities for their patients, including live chat with medical specialists, to help retain patients and help ensure better diagnoses? Should they build consumer-friendly, self-administering applications such as diabetic patient monitors that will administer insulin as needed based on preset dietary information? Should these be free services, or should they carry a small fee ala www.justanswer.com which gives consumers access to a wide range of medical/health professionals for a nominal cost per query?

From an “inner workings” standpoint, strategic aspects healthcare organizations must consider as they relate to mHealth and use of cloud computing as a delivery platform for mHealth include:

  • To what extent should they develop applications and employ methods that will allow consumers to use personal tools (e.g., iPad, iPhone and Blackberry) to access those applications?
  • What will infrastructure platforms look like, and to what extent will cloud computing play a role?
  • Will internal “App Stores” become necessary, and how will those be managed?
  • What will be the organizational impact of migration to cloud and next generation platforms – i.e., what will internal IT, roles/skills, governance, and core processes look like in a post-transformation end-state?
  • How can organizations more effectively drive improved utilization of existing assets, while cost-effectively adding new capacity via cloud or next-generation data center models?

I realize I’ve asked a lot of questions in this blog, and that was exactly my intent…healthcare companies and providers of the technological capabilities must consider these questions and many more if they are to succeed. The reality is that packaging mHealth solutions is highly challenging because of the complexities that exist in the diversity of service providers (carriers, integrators, device and appliance providers, and application developers) each of which provide vital pieces of the puzzle including network backbone, broadband, mobile integration support and maintenance, cloud computing capabilities, and application development and provision. In today’s service environment there are traditional boundaries that will have to be bridged, and success will be based on service providers’ development of an “mHealth in a box” solution set. It can be done, but it won’t be an easy task.

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