R U Interested? Highlights from Day One at mHealth's San Diego Conference

September 8, 2010
Sean Johnson

Just about the only disappointment on day one mHealth's 2010 conference in San Diego so far has been the weather.

Just about the only disappointment at mHealth’s 2010 conference in San Diego so far has been the weather. The opening session by mHealth Vice President Peter Waegemann was quite inspiring, as he gave an excellent overview of the growing importance of mobile applications in healthcare. His presentation included some staggering numbers; did you know that there are over 360,000 applications across eight different smartphone platforms? Only 6,000 of which are medical apps (and only 3,200 of those 6,000 that are not fitness-related). Not surprising was the fact that approximately 94% of physicians use smartphones regularly.

But really stop and think about that for a moment: if 94% of physicians are using smartphones, then why aren’t there more widespread processes and applications to utilize them in a healthcare-related way? Unfortunately, because there are still many barriers to this integration. Perhaps the most troubling barrier to incorporating mobile more seamlessly into healthcare, according to Waegemann, is the fact that those in management positions, primarily CIOs, are not privy to the needs of the physicians within their organization. If everyone cannot get on the same page, especially senior management within healthcare organizations, mobile healthcare will never achieve its full potential. Right now there seems to be a major disconnect between organizational levels, and until the gap is bridged, there will be a limit to what mobile technology will be able to do for healthcare. In addition to communicative barriers, there are still issues with interoperability among platforms and security concerns still abound (although there has been progress in this area). But the purpose of mHealth is to bring together all the people together who can help open the lines of communication and start working together on solutions that will benefit everyone.

Following Waegemann’s opening dialogue, John Mattison, MD, CMIO, Kaiser Permanente, took the stage. His presentation, “Healthcare Meets Wellness: The Critical Role of Mobile Services,” was excellent. Mattison used his time to discuss the ways in which we can better our healthcare system to be more patient-centric and incentive-driven. His insights were extremely well received by the audience, and among the many highlights and pieces of information that he doled out was his “behavioral secret sauce.” He said that in order for patients to truly change their behavior to improve their health, there are four key components:

  1. The understanding personal and social context of the consumer
  2. Engaging the existing social network to peers in behavioral change
  3. Extending their social network to peer in behavioral change
  4. Providing captivating and additive rewards and incentives

It’s no secret that social networks are extremely popular and influential, and Mattison made a point to mention that there are many disease-specific communities of people that can really help patients achieve wellness goals. But the most intriguing of the four components listed above must be #4; without “captivating and addictive” incentives, consumers will likely not change their behavior. Mattison spent a lot of time talking how this patient-centric model is necessary to really get mass amounts of patients to improve their health. One seemingly successful way to do so would be for the healthcare industry to move away from a payment system in place now and transition to an integrated delivery network in which the model is to maximize health through the premium consumers pay.

Another interesting point by Mattison was in regards to his second component above. Talk Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous as an example; these organizations have been known to truly help people by way of a social support group. The unfortunate part about these programs is that they are only available to those who have hit rock bottom, Mattison says that we need to find a way to help provide support groups, whether it’s in-person communities like AA and NA, or social networking communities.

Mattison summed things up with a line that found it’s way immediately onto the Twittesphere (and this provides and excellent segue into a shameless plug; follow HCPLive on Twitter for the latest mHealth updates at www.twitter.com/HCPLive): “Consumer-driven healthcare is unequivocally the most transformational revolution in healthcare today, and we need to nourish the ecosystem.”