Mobility Week: How to Improve mHealth

It’s really interesting to look at the past few years of mobile technology and healthcare. Things have exploded in a great way and it’s exciting. The walls are starting to come down and innovation is really starting to happen. Four or five years ago, the barriers to entry were just as high as the barriers to exit in healthcare IT. Because they were so high on both sides, many people were stuck in the middle. It was almost impossible for new players to get into that system and integrate new, innovative ideas. We’re starting to see those barriers to entry come down. It’s exciting to see a big hospital system shake hands with a smaller startup and try to figure out a way to create solutions in an agile, startup-like approach.

But, at the same time, we’re starting to see that many of these solutions are siloed solutions. With my clinical hat on, if I want to leverage a certain application that will solve a problem for a patient, it might be a different application than what I need to open for another patient. What happens is that we are creating a salad of applications and solutions without actually thinking from the bigger picture about a platform. The truly exciting innovations in mobile health now are platforms, like data aggregation platforms, analytics platforms, and learning platforms.

If there was one thing I would change about mobile healthcare technology, it would be to make it more evenly distributed. I would want more sensors in the hands of more patients, and more mobile healthcare technology movements at more hospital systems.

At University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, we have been working with mhealth for years. But I know there are a lot of hospital systems that are just starting to sniff at this space. If we are going to move forward productively in the future, there has to be greater transparency in terms of data sharing and interconnectedness between all parties—patients and hospitals—so that we can actually leverage each other to do something much greater in scope. Until the technology is more evenly distributed, I don’t think we’ll be able to do that.

Shivdev Rao is Physician Advisor in Residence at UPMC.