Consumers, clinicians alike will drive m-health

Some people believe consumers will drive the mobile health "revolution." Others believe the impetus for change is coming from clinicians themselves. And then there's a third opinion: "Both, and for different reasons," offered Ric Hattabaugh, executive vice president of mobile marketing firm mobileStorm, at the recent Mobile Marketing Association Forum in Los Angeles.

At that conference, Hattabaugh spoke about how a single Kaiser Permanente clinic saved $275,000 simply by offering SMS appointment reminders. He later gave an in-depth interview with Justin Montgomery of the Mobile Marketing Watch blog.

"A consumer will 'grade' or judge how well they like a healthcare provider or insurer based on their health services and costs. One aspect of service is how well they can communicate. I don't know that I would choose a healthcare provider simply because they have a great iPhone app, but how well they communicate is definitely part of the mix," Hattabaugh said of the consumer side of the equation. "In retail or other consumer mobile opportunities the focus is on making money, but in healthcare mobile apps can also SAVE money," he added, addressing the provider side. "In a healthcare organization, cost savings is driving some of the innovation."

Text messaging helped Kaiser save money, though other technologies, of course, are coming down the pike. "So right now, I'd say SMS is doing more than its share of lifting. That's not to say that it's a sole area of focus, or that it will be the big seller for mobile companies in the healthcare industry, but rather it's the technology that got traction first," Hattabaugh explained.

Other instances of mobile health may be held back by privacy and security concerns, or simply because the healthcare industry tends to move slowly, according to Hattabaugh.

"Privacy compliance in the healthcare industry is very ambiguous," he said."You have to look at why the compliance issues around privacy exist in the first place. The structure of mobile communication and data access has to be around making the information easily available to the person who really owns it--the healthcare consumer....I don't [want] my lab results left on my answering machine if I share an apartment, but what if I want you to leave my results in a voicemail that's only accessible from my phone with my credentials?"

He does not believe that healthcare organizations are necessarily scared off by innovation, but some breakthroughs may be stunted by the sheer complexity of the industry. "Keep in mind that mobile is only a very, very tiny part of what can influence a positive outcome for a healthcare consumer," Hattabaugh said. "So if I'm a healthcare provider, I have to prioritize resources on a risk/reward basis. Mobile is now for healthcare organizations, but it will take time for it to be widespread. As a technology vendor, it's taking longer than I'd like, but I get it."

For more of Hattabaugh's insight:
- read the Q&A on the Mobile Marketing Watch blog