#mHealth: a future that has already passed

The Health area is certainly one of the most active and vital. The combination of terms such as digital technology and innovation at the term “Health” creates scenarios and imaginations among the most inspirational, promising and visionary.

When we talk about digital and of health one can not refer to the area of ​​the mHealth .
Trend theme to which the IMS has dedicated a recent work, investigating in particular the ” Patient Adoption of mHealth “And in general the use, evidence and current resistance to mass use of such applications in the health management process.
According to the IMS report (available on www.imshealth.com ) the number of mHealth App downloads in just 3 years is more than duplicated .

But what are these mHealth apps?

The mHealth App they are the set of applications and contents created for mobile devices with the aim of “intervening”, in some way, on one or more aspects related to the Health field. In general the mHealth app can be grouped into two macro categories:
Wellness , which includes fitness apps (eg Fitbit), lifestyle and nutrition (myfitnessPal, etc.) and that are in the phase of behavioral change and preventative well-being.
Disease & treatment management which includes, instead, the app useful in the management of a specific pathology and that support all the phases that go from diagnosis to treatment to control of the same (for ex. Amicomed for the control of blood pressure, One Drop for diabetes management, amiko.io to improve treatment compliance).
Interesting is the data that shows how more than half of the over 26,864 iOS and Android apps, selected from among those most used and analyzed in the IMS report, fall in the Wellness area.

This data confirms that there are patients a strong desire for health and a strong awareness that, to keep healthy, you have to take care of yourself before an illness develops.
But this is not a data that only affects patients. Even among the health providers this is starting to exist tendency to recommend mHealth to their patients, mainly for change the lifestyle and, to a lesser extent, also for the management and control of particular diseases.

The report shows another interesting data, that of the resistance to the use of mHealth as an effective tool in the treatment process . Which is hard to explain if you only think about how many problems of the traditional health management process (bad lifestyle control, incorrect use or inappropriate or suboptimal use of drugs, a consequent non-adherence to therapy and therefore the failure of the therapeutic objectives, the adjoining frustration for doctors and patients and the increase in the economic costs of the treatment) could be solved, or partially limited, with the use of appropriately selected digital tools.

Why this resistance?

There is a lack of strong clinical evidence that is sufficient to justify the expense of mHealth production and the adoption of these in treatment protocols. Let’s not forget also the problems of accessibility to this type of tools and the always delicate problems of privacy and personal data management.

How are these gaps filled?

Surely making sure that all the stakeholders of the health system (APP developers, institutional bodies and regulators, payers, health system, health providers and patients) ranks in the same direction:
selecting the best mHealth tools , which have the potential to be really useful for the improvement of care (in this respect, it is remarkable) Digital Health StoryMap , an innovative tool that gathers a selection of the best startups and the most promising solutions in the Digital Health field, categorizing them according to different parameters: health and care cycle, impact on specific pathologies or areas of the body and use at different times of the day) .
– establishing for these of the regulatory guidelines for the management of sensitive data and privacy,
– inserting the best mHealth projects in actual treatment protocols and models ,
– making them repayable and available as many people as possible.
The example of Tinnitracks , an innovative app for the care of tinnitus which, while not using any medication, is recognized for all purposes as “therapy”, shows us that all this is possible and must be pursued.

And in particular, we Digital Innovators? What is our role? How do technology and digital innovation fit in this process?

Thanks to the intuition, the study, the experimentation of new technologies, the courage and the madness of some pioneers, the concept of mHealth has evolved quickly and the simple applications for mobile devices have become much more: perennially connected devices, wearables, sensors and health devices appendix today I’m no longer science fiction, I am a reality . In a not so distant time, we will be wearing sensors that can predict a heart attack weeks before it happens and make the intervention in urgency an outpatient ambulatory intervention.
Without fearing a future in which the traditional medical / patient interaction will be completely replaced, it is certainly possible to predict that technology will play an ever more pervasive and relevant role in improving outcomes, reducing costs and evolving the whole health process .
I like to think that with the support of all the stakeholders of the Health system, it will soon be possible to build a virtuous circle of increased care that, by translating the concepts of augmented reality to health, will enable always looking “beyond” the traditional concepts of care .

But this also means that soon we will no longer be able to satisfy ourselves of the doctor who prescribes the app to track the physical activity and calories taken by the most sedentary and greedy patients; or the doctor who becomes part of the online community connected to his patient’s app and who is there to encourage him and remind him how to take care of himself; nor of the doctor who, together with the therapy, advises the app to keep track of it. Not just and no more, because this is already there … and it is the present!

We can no longer think that the devices connected to the box of medicines, or the alert systems that alert us when we forget to take them are the future that improves adherence to therapy. This too is already there … and it is the present!

And also the wearable that constantly tracks the vital parameters, which promptly warns me and my loved ones in case of suspicious variations is not science fiction. This already exists … and it is present!

I like to think that the mHealth is already the present . What I expect from this is that you soon find the way to integrate all these small health technology treasures in a systematic and capillary way, in the daily life of all patients .
I like to think that the mHealth will soon be the past and that, as such, it will soon be reworked and evolved.
I like to think that we, digital health innovators , we can already focus on a new future and that the times are already ripe for a new era , to be explored and designed: the Augmented Healthcare Era .

Source: Mevvy, June 2015; IMS Health, AppScript, June2015; IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, August 2015

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