ATA's Linkous warns of m-health 'hype cycle,' tempers talk of 'revolution'

Lest anyone think mobile healthcare will singlehandedly transform healthcare, American Telemedicine Association President Jonathan Linkous delivers a little reality check.

"The wide-spread media attraction in the m-health market is because it's new and it's fun," Linkous writes on the ATA blog. "It is still a bit of a Wild West atmosphere with new ideas and crazy applications coming up every day. Some include incredibly smart and exciting approaches to solving age old health care problems; others appear to be solutions in search of a problem. The investment money is flying out the door. Although there is a positive growth in sales, almost all of the m-health companies or divisions have not yet made a profit."

This, Linkous says, hearkens back to the freewheeling dot-com era. "Certainly at this point m-health is close to the top of the 'hype cycle' (as described by Gartner, Inc). There are new associations and think tanks devoted to the subject, academic and commercial conferences galore. We are approaching the cycle's 'Peak of Expectations,'" Linkous writes.

Perhaps more importantly, mobile healthcare is not a standalone market, but just one element of a much larger healthcare sector. "To be successful, m-health devices and services have to understand how the healthcare market operates; how it is funded and regulated; and, most important, how buying decisions are made," Linkous says. "Developing a way to use a mobile device to measure blood glucose and send the data to another location may be interesting but is not nearly enough."

Likewise, it's not enough to count on consumer spending to fuel an m-health revolution. Instead, mobile applications should be part of traditional healthcare services and payment mechanisms, the ATA president says. "The point of all of this is that the success of the m-health revolution in the United States is directly linked with developments occurring in broader health reform and how m-health applications may be an option for use in such developments as Accountable Care and Independence at Home initiatives," Linkous says.

For more details:
- check out Linkous' post on the ATA blog