Eric Dishman made a really insightful comment in a Healthcare IT news article in response to a question about how patient-centered care evolved over the past few years:
“In a way, it’s started to evolve with the whole mHealth movement. And the focus on consumer apps. That’s certainly brought a lot of attention to the possibilities of patient-centered health. I’m a little concerned about the way it’s going in that regard, though, because there’s a lot of hype and very little reality. I go to the mHealth conferences, and I’m the first person who will stand up and believe – and we have prototyped at Intel a range of mHealth solutions – I am absolutely convinced that the role of the smartphone in our life, it’s going to be a coaching tool, it’s going to be a diagnostic tool, it’s going to be a reminding tool, and you’re certainly seeing applications built out from that. But people will say to me, ‘There’s 65,000 apps for health in the iTunes store.’ But I say, 12,000 of them are diabetes apps, maybe six of them have ever been downloaded more than once, and two of them have been used continuously.”
Certainly the usage numbers at the end are a very large exaggeration by Eric Dishman, but the point is a very interesting one. It’s one thing to have an mHealth app. It’s a very different thing to have an mHealth app that actually gets used on a regular basis by a patient or other user.
I think one of the biggest challenges facing mHealth apps is the perception by many that we don’t need an mHealth app. As a relatively young, healthy person, I’ll admit that I don’t use an mHealth app to monitor myself. We need to get to the point where we’re doing what I’ve called “Treating Healthy Patients.”
Many might argue with just the issues of obesity and diabetes alone, that should make most American’s candidates to participate in some mHealth app. The bigger problem is that most don’t see those as issues. It’s a perception problem as much as anything and that’s hard to overcome.
I do believe that mobile will revolutionize many of the things we do in healthcare. Plus, I think a number of really well designed mobile health apps are going to do really well. I just don’t think we’ve yet seen one that’s cracked through the mobile health noise. I won’t be surprised if the one that does will come from a surprising place.