Mobile Health Technology Experiences Growing Pains

Rapid growth of mobile health technology means stakeholders must cope with security issues and integration into the existing IT infrastructure.

Nicole Lewis, Contributor

October 9, 2012

4 Min Read

Uncle Sam Shares 12 Top Health Apps

Uncle Sam Shares 12 Top Health Apps

Uncle Sam Shares 12 Top Health Apps (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Mobile health tools used to manage chronic and acute conditions will become more ubiquitous across healthcare settings, a new report from Frost & Sullivan concludes. But security concerns, problems integrating the technology into providers' monitoring systems, and a lack of best practices remain barriers.

The report, Advances in mHealth Technologies, relies on approximately 60 executives at healthcare organizations, academic research institutions, software development firms, and mobile device companies. These executives operate mobile health platforms in the USA, Canada, the Asian Pacific region, and Europe.

Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Prasanna Kannan told InformationWeek Healthcare, "As the care system shifts to a personalized disease management system, mHealth can help physicians and other clinicians remotely manage predictive symptoms of chronic illness, as well as episodes of acute conditions in hospital settings."

Kannan, the report's author, said cardiovascular disease and diabetes are the leading chronic conditions that are seeing the greatest adoption rates of mobile health technology, which is used to monitor patients' vital signs and manage their care.

[ Which mobile medical apps are doctors and patients turning to most? See 9 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look. ]

Furthermore, the report cites six key areas where the use of mobile devices can improve research and care coordination:

--Long-term disease management. As patients get older and live longer, the need for mobile devices that monitor their condition will increase and the geriatric market segment will grow.

--Primary diagnosis. This is enabled through telehealth systems such as mobile video consultations. By exchanging clinical information, doctors can make diagnostic predictions and improve patient outcomes.

--Emergency response systems. Text messaging, personal digital assistant (PDA) devices, and other mobile communications systems can help medical teams coordinate the care of patients in transition from one setting to another.

--Health and wellness information. Health-related tools and apps are gaining popularity. These include personalized fitness tools such as Fitbit, Adidas miCoach, and WiScale, which monitor exercise regimens and track everything from how many calories you burn to your weight and body mass index (BMI).

--Mobile-enhanced RFID-based tracking of drugs.Mobile devices can help track medications and other medical supplies.

--Public health research.The data collected from monitoring patients can contribute to population health research and surveillance of groups of individuals with similar medical conditions.

According to Kannan, within the next three to four years, mobile device developers will gain a better understanding of the nature of security breach concerns and will improve their systems to shield against these threats.

She also predicts that as wireless vital sign monitoring, telehealth networks, and Bluetooth-enabled health trackers become more ubiquitous, every hospital facility will eventually need to acquire a full enterprise wireless system. This will be spurred on by an emerging market approach that entails collaboration between regulatory agencies and medical device companies to develop mobile health apps that will be adopted widely across healthcare systems.

One area of concern, according to executives interviewed for the report, is that doctors need to do more to highlight the features and benefits of mHealth services and applications so patients appreciate their value.

Finally, the report offers key strategies to move mobile health forward. One example is urging hospitals and healthcare networks to focus on capturing data generated by apps in specific areas of care, such as diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease. Another strategy is to integrate mHealth systems with existing hospitals and academic research centers to raise the level of research, improve preventative medicine strategies, and lower the cost of care.

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

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