How will mHealth evolve in 2014?

Despite reimbursement and regulatory issues, hospital leaders continue to look to mobile tools and initiatives to improve the speed, quality and efficiency of patient care, so much so that the mHealth market is expected to hit projected revenue of more than $49 billion in the next six years.

The regulatory issues are well chronicled.

Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published its final guidance on mobile medical applications. One month later, however, a bipartisan group of House members introduced the SOFTWARE Act, legislation that looks to limit the FDA's authority. Just last month, members of the Senate their own companion bill--the Preventing Regulatory Overreach to Enhance Care Technology (PROTECT) Act of 2014. The latter legislation would make the National Institute of Standards and Technology the federal agency with oversight responsibility for technical standards used by clinical software.

Still, the number of organizations that offer patients and consumers mobile apps increased 13 percent in the last year, according to the results of HIMSS Analytics' annual mobile survey, published last month. Overall, 59 percent of survey respondents reported that their organizations have mobile technology plans in place, while another 29 percent said they are in the process of developing such plans.

Additionally, close to 70 percent of respondents reported that their clinicians use mobile technology to view patient information, such as laboratory results or digital images. And about two-thirds (65 percent) indicated they use it to look up non-protected health information, such as clinical guidelines.

Needless to say, the mHealth landscape is evolving, particularly as hospital executives and clinicians become more comfortable with such tools. However, according to Steven Steinhubl, a cardiologist at San Diego-based Scripps Health and director of digital medicine at the Scripps Translational Science Institute, additional growth in the field will require "hard evidence" that mobile technology in healthcare works.

"The whole medical field is full of examples of therapeutic interventions that everyone just assumes make so much sense that they have to be good for you, but a lot [of] times, those interventions turn out to be dangerous," Steinhubl, who will speak on a FierceHealthIT webinar this Thursday, March 20 at 2 p.m. ET, focusing on trends to watch in mHealth in 2014, told FierceHealthIT last fall. "It's really important to have the highest potential level data available to show how different technologies fit in."

As the industry grows, I'm interested to hear your take. What trends will define and drive mHealth in 2014? Will federal efforts prove to be burdensome, or will they help the industry to thrive and prosper? Let us know what you think; either email me, leave a comment, or post to our Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook pages. - Dan @FierceHealthIT

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