mHealth: Connecting Consumers with Care

The buzz following the mHealth Summit has been encouraging, to say the least. The December event drew 4,000 attendees, who were brought up to speed on the latest developments spanning policies and research, global health, hospital mobility, consumer engagement, privacy and security and, of course, emerging technologies.

The two areas of focus that I found most encouraging centered on consumer engagement and care coordination.

Far too often, when the industry talks about mobile health, the technology itself – or even just the promise of an emerging technology – has a way of quickly overpowering the dialogue. But as the Center for Connected Medicine's Joseph Kvedar touched on (and several panels advanced the notion), one of the biggest issues facing healthcare right now is getting and keeping consumers interested in their own care. The success of mobile devices and apps, as well as early consumer interest in wearables, is encouraging because it shows that all the pieces are in place. But until consumers show as much interest in communicating their health information with their doctors as they do, say, sharing Facebook posts, the healthcare system overall will continue to struggle.

Given this present state of consumer engagement, news that care coordination works was all the more welcome.

As mHealthNews reported: "In health systems large and small, clinicians are using smartphones to instantly connect with others caring for the same patient. They're sharing notes and tests, discussing treatment plans and, in many cases, bringing the patient and his/her family into the loop to map out a care plan that goes beyond the hospital or clinic. It's a tried-and-true process that's gone beyond the pilot stage, as was noted in Healthcare IT News' Monday morning breakfast panel and several educational sessions. Expect this to become the norm for patient care."

Taken together, the growing emphasis on consumer engagement – coupled with the now proven advantages of care coordination to help overcome the disconnect between physicians and other care givers – is, in my opinion, highly likely to yield meaningful outcomes.

Equally important, as medical groups and health systems begin to make headway with consumer engagement while addressing care coordination holistically, providers should be able to work together to keep patients healthier – while remaining competitive in the marketplace.

What questions about mHealth do you have?

As a B2B journalist, John Farrell has covered healthcare IT since 1997 and is a sponsored correspondent for Intel Health & Life Sciences.

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