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Broad mobile device growth accelerates mHealth

By Mary Mosquera, Senior Editor
Mobile health is beginning to demonstrate value for providers, payers and patients, in part due to the explosive growth of mobile devices and smartphones.

Mobile health is a means of connecting consumers and deliverers of healthcare to actionable information, said Richard Migliori, executive vice president and chief medical officer of the UnitedHealth Group, who was among the speakers at Monday's mHealth Summit Super Session titled "The Value Proposition for mHealth."

The payer has invested over the years in analytics to help understand the needs of patients and drill down to the issues that concern them, Migliori said.

"The problem has been getting people to pay attention to that information," he said.

Mobile technologies are becoming a part of healthcare, to a point where individuals are adopting personal communications devices into their lifestyle.

"If we simply jump on that, we'll be able to do it," he said. "A year ago I would have said it is promising. Now I can say it is delivering."

Migliori gave examples of tools that are available to help individuals identify and track chronic conditions and GPS applications that help them find physicians by specialty, quality and distance. Physicians are also using tools to track patient adherence to their care plan over time.

"Mobile health is an opportunity to help the healthcare system perform better simply by becoming part of the consumer's lifestyle and part of the physician's workflow," he said.

Indeed, providers are embracing mobile technologies in healthcare. According to a HIMSS survey published Monday, 75 percent of responding hospitals reported that 90 percent of their physicians use smartphones, said Pat Wise, HIMSS' vice president for healthcare information systems.

In addition to physicians, the hospitals reported that 84 percent of their non-clinicians, 70 percent of their healthcare executives and 62 percent of administrative and support staff use smartphones, she said.

However, only 29 percent of the responding hospitals have policies in place on mobile use.

According to the survey, the biggest concerns are privacy and security and access to the data and "how fast can we get it," Wise said.

The focus for health reform should be moving away from treating acute events and figuring out how to manage chronic diseases, said Don Casey, CEO of the West Wireless Health Institute. That means preparing for an infrastructure-independent healthcare environment, with mobile health a critical part.

Entrepreneurs who are developing mobile health applications should concentrate on what problems they are trying to solve, who is paying and what is unique about their creations, he said.

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