mHealth: A service line in search of a strategy

You know what they say: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. When it comes to mHealth, according to one recent survey, at least, a surprising number of organizations are failing to plan--in a really big way.

In the survey, health IT consulting firm Medullan asked more than 100 healthcare provider professionals to name the top driver for their organization's mHealth initiative.

The top answer? "No driver." A quarter of organizations who said they have an mHealth program in place could not say why.  

What's odd about this is that the healthcare industry in general is extremely savvy about developing market strategies for other service lines. No organization would bring a cardiologist on staff or expand its oncology services or invest in new imaging technology without doing due diligence, calculating the return on investment and having a clear end goal in mind.

I suspect that the 25 percent of respondents who aren't sure why they're investing in mHealth don't consider it a service line like any other. I also suspect the 25 percent are forging ahead because the barriers to mHealth are relatively low, or because they want to keep up with their competitors, or simply because they think mHealth is trendy. 

It reminds me of healthcare's early forays into social media. Anyone could start a blog, set up a twitter account, have a Facebook page … But not everyone could do it well. Hospitals felt like they had to be online. But they didn't really know what to do once they got there.

By now, most hospitals do have a social media strategy in place. But it took a while to get to that point--and in the meantime, countless hours were wasted throwing tweets and posts online to see what might stick.

But mHealth offerings are much more complex than social media activities. It's not just about cool smartphones and neat mobile apps. As panelists at an mHealth session I moderated last week at the iHT2 Summit in New York City noted, mHealth is one piece of a complete clinical care structure--and it is one tool in the toolbox of delivering more efficient, cost-effective and better quality care. Achieving those goals will necessarily lead to better patient experiences.

Those sound like pretty good drivers to me. - Gienna (@Gienna)