Five questions on mobile health

The positive impacts of mobile health or mHealth are starting to be noticed but there is still much to do before it becomes part of how we provide good healthcare. IDF talks with Brian O’Connor, Chair of the European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance), on the benefits of health becoming more mobile and the need for success stories to showcase mHealth projects.

What benefits can mHealth bring to how we currently provide healthcare and wellness?
Many people in high- and low-income countries use mobile devices, iPads or other tablets and smartphones. Many of us use these devices for conversation, emails, texts and obtaining information. They are now an integral part of most people’s lives. The one major market which has not embraced mobile health and wellness is the health sector. The ability to use your device to book an appointment with your doctor or nurse, to receive your blood test and other results, to obtain advice on what to do next or to receive reminders to take your medication are all benefits for everyone.

What steps do we need to take before mHealth becomes an integrated part of how we do healthcare?
We need success stories to show that mHealth or mobile health is an enabler which benefits patients and healthcare professionals. Some people in the health profession see mHealth  as a threat to their key role in caring for patients. Another challenge is that certain health systems do not treat a consultation on the telephone, Skype or Facetime as a reimbursable consultation. This is slowly changing but needs to be accelerated.

We need success stories to show that mHealth or mobile health is an enabler which benefits consumers, patients and the health professionals.

The other issue worrying health professionals is, how do they deal with the extra data that may be generated by the use of mHealth. This is an understandable concern and the good news is that mHealth is already providing solutions by automatically analysing the data, presenting only the required data to the clinician to assist decision making and storing and making available all the data if required.

What have been the most exciting developments in mHealth so far?
The entry onto the market of companies outside the healthcare sector, such as Amazon and Google.

Consumer companies are recognising they have an important part to play in educating the public about wellness and management of diseases including diabetes. Many of these companies are used to satisfying consumer demands in an effective and efficient way, accessible on all mobile devices. Many new devices and sensors are available now and consumer demand is driving innovations.

In your view what are the benefits to a collaboration between IDF and ECHAlliance?
IDF brings international credibility and influence, the European Connected Health Alliance brings a community from all sectors, academia, industry and healthcare providers and payers. 

The international network of permanent ecosystems coordinated by the ECHAlliance provides a unique opportunity to engage with organisations in many countries who will assist in the implementation of the challenge. The joint efforts of the two organisations combined with the global partners who will join us in the challenge will help ensure success.

What does mHealth mean to you?
An exciting, and available opportunity to improve people’s lives, prevent illness and disease, improve accessibility to professionals and solutions to help manage disease.

There are significant cost saving solutions through using mHealth and we are empowering consumers to take more responsibility for their lifestyles and all through readily available devices.