Healthcare must catch up with capabilities of mobile apps

There is endless technology for ordering a burrito, turning off the air conditioning or turning on a security system from a cellphone. So why can't healthcare be this simple across the board? That's what Harry Greenspun, senior advisor for health care transformation & technology at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, asked at the Government Health IT conference this week in Washington, D.C. 

The healthcare industry needs to catch up with the true capabilities of mobility and applications, Greenspun argued, before it can expect better outcomes. The healthcare industry needs smarter hardware, more sophisticated operating systems, more apps and better software.

 "We get very excited about the opportunity to do cool things with mHealth, but we have to look at other industry's examples of how they get us to do things," Greenspun said. "I have no idea what my lab results are, but I know the technology exists to tell me what's going on."

Greenspun said it's a question of making sense of all the data being pulled in from health apps. He asked: Where are the analytics?

An audience member, Chris Brancato, also from Deloitte, asked Greenspun what people will pay for more complex apps, since the current rate for health apps is so low.

This is the problem, Greenspun said--since apps are still in the consumer space, the questions are wrong. We should be asking, "Who will benefit from it?" and not, "Who will be willing to pay for it," he said.

"Forget the early days of getting EHR interoperability under control. We've got a whole new set of things to worry about," he said.

Patient expectations for mobile healthcare aren't necessarily in line with what the healthcare system thinks they are, Greenspun said. People want convenience, proximity and quickness, and they rate their doctors on results, not quality.

And when it comes to applications and wearable devices, giving people information doesn't change their behavior, Greenspun said. There's got to be incentive, such as employer-based incentives, which Greenspun said motivates him personally to work out and stay healthy.

"The technology problem gets solved, but it's not technology that's the problem," he said.