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The four dimensions of effective mobile health: People, places, payment, and purpose

The promise of mobile health (mHealth), the use of mobile devices to support the practice of medicine and public health, is profound but as yet, unrealized. Mobile transformation of the health care industry depends on factors such as user-friendly devices, reliable and affordable connectivity, increasing consumer demand, and business analytics.

In the near future, mHealth is expected to be a valuable partner in health care’s shift towards a patient-centered, value-based delivery model. mHealth strategies, however, are not “one-size-fits-all.” To leverage mHealth technologies’ full potential as a health care disruptor, health care organizations will likely need to consider four dimensions.

  • Demographics: The demographics and technology preferences of consumers and health professionals may be among the first considerations when planning a mHealth program so that technology platforms can be strategically tailored to users.
  • Reimbursement and policy framework: Early mHealth models were primarily unsuccessful due to reimbursement issues rather than technological ones.1 Value-based reforms that bundle payment with quality outcomes based on evidence-based standards could help advance the business case for mHealth. Additionally, organizations’ risk management policies should address privacy and security, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, and consumer concerns regarding the safety of patient information.
  • Local infrastructure: The availability, accessibility, and reliability of local networks – cellular, broadband, and wireless – impact when and how mHealth is used. As download speeds and bandwidth capacity increase, mHealth programs could leverage more advanced mobile functions. In addition, health care systems’ current readiness to manage and respond to incoming clinical data may hinder mHealth’s potential.
  • Disease dynamics: mHealth strategies that align with case management complexities and clinical objectives, as determined by differing disease states, are more likely to be effective.

Many health care stakeholders’ forward-looking plans are likely to include an integrated, enterprise-wide mobile strategy. As organizations face new business models and increasingly need to maximize resources, a program that leverages the four dimensions of mHealth has the potential to improve workplace efficiencies, increase patient safety, better coordinate care, facilitate payments, and engage patients.

Source: 1 Ann Intern Med.1998;129(2):123-127. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-129-2-199807150-00012.


Author bio

As director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Dr. Greenspun serves health care, life sciences, and government clients on key innovation and clinical transformation issues. He has been named one of the “50 Most Influential Physician Executives in Healthcare” by Modern Healthcare, co-authored the book “Reengineering Healthcare,” and has served on advisory boards for the World Economic Forum, WellPoint, HIMSS, Georgetown University. Prior to joining Deloitte, he served as the Chief Medical Officer for Dell.