Incorporating mHealth into routine care 'potentially transformational' despite challenges

The advent of true mobile health technology comes with obstacles and caveats, but despite that holds great promise to "reengineer" care, according to a viewpoint published in Science Translational Medicine.

The in-depth analysis, by Scripps Health researchers Steven Steinhubl, M.D., Eric Muse, M.D., and Eric Topol, M.D., outlines the emergence of mHealth technologies and the related challenges that will demand attention and require action.

"As noted by these examples, there is great potential for mHealth technologies to reengineer almost every facet of healthcare and, in the process, markedly improve our understanding of human physiology in health and disease," the authors write. "The surge in computing power and mobile connectivity have fashioned a foundation for mobile health technologies that can transform the mode and quality of clinical research and healthcare on a global scale."

The authors describe the incorporation of mHealth into routine care as challenging and yet "so potentially transformational." The mHealth challenges include redesigning the clinical research paradigm, financial hurdles, health data privacy and ownership, information security and data overload.

Increased demand for wearables may cause providers to face an overflow of patient data, they add. That "tsunami" of information will lead to issues such as a potential need for constant oversight and the need to summarize all the data into a usable and meaningful format.

Wearable adoption is tied to consumer education on the benefits of such tools. A recent Parks Associates study reports just 5 percent of U.S. broadband households are home to a smartwatch providing health and fitness tracking features, and 8 percent of households are using a digital fitness activity tracker such as a pedometer.

Yet Americans increasingly are interested in emerging mHealth and fitness devices and tech. Roughly two-thirds of Americans are enthusiastic about tapping digital tools for managing personal health and such eagerness likely will drive deeper adoption of wearables and use of mobile medical apps, states the fifth annual "Pulse of Online Health," conducted by Makovsky Health/Kelton.

For more information:
- read the viewpoint (.pdf)

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