Doctors: mHealth is more hype than reality

skeptical-female-doctorKEY TAKEAWAY: If patients have to “take action” using mobile health apps or devices, there is a high probability that any mHealth intervention will not succeed, according to qual research with doctors.

I have just finished reviewing extensive qualitative research with physician’s regarding mHealth, focusing around apps, and to say that they are not sold would be an understatement. The bottom line? “If patients aren’t compliant with medications that could help them stay healthy they are not going to use apps, or any device, that requires them to change their daily behaviors”.

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First the logistics; the research was June-August and was with 435 PCP’s who were offered a incentive to attend the research. The objective was to measure their reaction and gain input into mHealth initiatives on behalf of my client who is determining the level of investment in mHealth.

Key Findings:

1ne: Doctors do not believe that mHealth apps can improve patient outcomes if it requires patients to take time to both enter and monitor data from the app. Some may do it, but as a whole they need to be convinced that patients will use and act on the data.

2wo: Doctors do not have time to review mHealth data sent from patients and worry about compensation for their time in working with patients who use mHealth.

3hree: PCP’s do not always believe in mHealth data. If a patient comes in with some mHealth data they are more likely to order tests that are clinically relevant.

Worried young woman being accused
Worried young woman being accused

4our: PCP’s are worried that patients will act on mHealth apps and data, independent of working with their physicians.

5ive: Not one physician in our research has been approached by a pharma salesperson to talk about any mHealth sponsored initiative. When asked “would a pharma led and sponsored mHealth app be supported” they all said “we would need to see research on both better patient outcomes and the willingness of patients to consistently use the app”.

The stories we heard from doctors on patients misusing mHealth apps was intriguing. For example, one patient had an app that indicated she was prediabetic and decided to cut down on foods that contained sugar, but, because she was overweight, she became diabetic and was admitted to the hospital with a blood/glucose issue that could have been avoided if she had come to her doctor. Another said that a patient was using an mHealth app for high blood pressure, but was confused about the guidelines. When he came into see his doctor his BP was dangerously high.

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As a whole HCP’s need to be convinced of the viability of mHealth. They need to be assured that patients are going to both use the mHealth app and that it will lead to better patient outcome