mFinance offers important lessons for mHealth

By René Letourneau, Managing Editor, Healthcare Finance News

Providing a greater understanding of the financial regulatory environment, emerging business models and evolving technologies that are shaping mHealth is the focus of the mFinance track at the mHealth Summit.

"We are looking at how financial services are integrated into mobile health and how health is integrated into financial services," said Karl Brown, associate director of the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the summit's organizers.  

The track, taking place Monday in Chesapeake 7-9, is divided into three sessions:

1.    Critical Policy Dynamics Within an mHealth/mFinance Platform: This panel will discuss the policy challenges presented by the growing use of mobile technology within healthcare with regard to payment, data collection, privacy issues and long-term sustainability. It will also look at the similarities and differences of mHealth policies in low-income vs. high-income countries. This session will take place from 12-1 p.m.

2.    Exploring Business Models that Leverage mFinance to Support mHealth: This session will provide an overview of the global landscape with real-world cost-revenue generating case studies. Emerging business models, including those that enable organizations and individuals to manage financial transactions for health-related services and products, will be highlighted. This session will take place from 2-3 p.m.

3.    Developing mHealth and mFinance Business Models and Platforms, an interactive session: mHealth technologies range from data collection and surveillance platforms to remote patient monitoring devices to point-of-care decision support tools. Drawing on the first two mFinance sessions, this session will use a real case study from Haiti to explore the processes through which financial transactions for health can be mapped and mobile money can be leveraged.  This session will take place from 3:15-4:15 p.m.

"There is much that mHealth can learn from mFinance, especially in relation to policy," said Patricia Mechael, executive director of the mHealth Alliance, another summit organizer. "mFinance has done a very good job of understanding and working around and with the financial regulatory environment.

"The growing use of mobile technology to mediate the relationships between patients and providers is revolutionizing clinical practice in developing countries, but to sustain this new area will require a critical examination of reimbursement for services increasingly being delivered through mobile platforms," added Mechael. "mHealth can be an efficient method of delivering both healthcare and health information – it reduces costs for both patients and providers by enabling patients to treat basic conditions at home and nurses to treat more advanced conditions in clinics and only when necessary for the limited number of physicians to treat individuals at the hospital level."

Brown agrees that mFinance offers many important lessons for mHealth.

"The most successful mobile services all over the world are those dealing with finance – payment, money transfer, etc.," he said. "mHealth can learn a lot from the mobile money space –in terms of business models, scale, policy and technology.

"In the long run, we think mHealth can save time and money by providing better access to information more quickly, and that can lead to preventative behavior, better advice, or better access to services," concluded Brown.

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