The mobile health hype

mhealth hypePOST SUMMARY: Dr. Joseph Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health at Boston-based Partners HealthCare said that nobody has figured out how to make consumers — patients — care about mobile health technologies. “And if we don’t [figure that out], m-health will be another tech bubble,” Kvedar was quoted as saying.Let’s get one thing straight: there is a huge difference between mobile health and mobile fitness.  Devices like Fitbit are fitness devices even if they can measure things like heart rate.  On the other hand, health devices, or apps, help users maintain and monitor their health through measurements like cholesterol and blood pressure.  The majority of doctors could care less about fitness devices and they believe that health apps need to be approved and monitored by the FDA.


Even the market for fitness devices is unsure. ”Surveys have found that half who use mobile fitness trackers to keep tabs on their workouts or diets stop using the programs within six months,” said a recent Los Angeles Times story on smartphones in healthcare.  Most consumers know when they have walked enough steps and doctors can tell, via a step on the scale, if a patient is within health guidelines.

When it comes to mobile health apps there are also a lot of concerns. Around 90 percent of young people think there should be some governmental regulation and oversight for digital health apps, according to a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia survey of 3,000 consumers.  The other concern comes from physicians who feel that some patients may use apps to self-diagnose health problems when they should be working with an HCP to restore optimum health.


The drug industry is struggling with mhealth for a lot of reasons. First, their organizations are not structured to develop mobile health apps that often require regular updates at operating systems evolve.  Second, the path to developing a great health app starts with identifying a need and extensive user testing throughout development.  Finally, we need to determine when apps provide patient benefits versus business objectives and what role the FDA plays in that mix.

Does this mean that the industry should just give up on mobile health? Hardly.  By developing patient centered solutions now and working through organizational and patient issues pharma can build on what they learn.  Marketing today is not just about selling things, it’s about helping consumers get better control of the things that are important to them and health is a key opportunity.

One thought on “The mobile health hype

  1. Agree that there is wag too much industry hype about mhealth including wearables. People in the business must be cognizant of the fact that the average consumer is not as sophisticated about health and tech as they are.

    Mhealth needs to generate and demonstrate real value for payers, providers and patients to succeed .

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