Although mHealth is growing in popularity, the evidence for efficacy is still limited

KEY TAKEAWAY: It’s easy to understand why health systems are so interested in mHealth. Smartphones have been creeping into every facet of modern life for more than a decade, providing unprecedented access to huge patient populations. “More than 100,000 (health) applications are now available in the leading app stores, and the assortment is constantly growing, but 65% are health and fitness apps.

 

If you listen to investors and press releases mHealth is the future of healthcare.  If you talk to talk to doctors, however, there is another story.  “If it helps patients understand health problems than I’m for it, ” said a leading physician in recent research, “but if they self diagnose and treat instead of coming to see me it could cause an unnecessary delay in treatment that could lead to prolonged health issues”.

During the research I asked doctors “what’s missing from mHealth?”.  The answers were clear and on point: first, proof that the data they collect is accurate and second, proof that patients will use them as intended”.   One physician even said “if a patient came into my office with a potential heart problem via their Apple watch I still would do a series of tests”.

What else concerns them?  The possibility that too many people may use mHealth along with online symptom trackers to self diagnose .  “It’s OK if mHealth drives people into my office, but if they self treat it could delay necessary medical interventions”.

We then talked about he rise of “immediate care” clinics and their popularity with patients. Our panel of doctors seemed to understand the draw of walk-in clinics, but were worried about the start-up costs.  “Some clinics have a wide array of diagnostic equipment in house, including MRI’s and x-ray devices, the start up cost of that could be enormous”.

The good news during the research is that almost all of the panel we spoke to see’s a change coming in primary care.  “We have to be more customer focused and that means access to our staff via email as well as short notice appointments”.  “People think that all we do is write prescriptions, but we also have to develop a good relationship with our patients so we can better understand their medical history”.

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