Mutually beneficial mHealth ecosystem is the future of healthcare

The creation of an interconnected healthcare ecosystem in which mobile technology addresses the needs of patients, providers and payers alike is the ultimate goal of mHealth, according to a new guide from Burlington, Mass.-based clinical documentation provider Nuance Communications.

Nuance's digital guide, Advancing the mHealth Ecosystem, includes a compendium of contributed articles from mHealth innovators and thought leaders drawn from industry and the medical community at large. The guide examines successful mHealth apps on the market, and how payers are working with patients and providers to drive better outcomes.

According to Nick Martin, UnitedHealth Group's vice president of innovation research and development, "some of the most useful mobile apps related to health enable people to more effectively navigate the healthcare system."

For example, Martin points to UnitedHealthcare's Health4Me, an iPhone and Android app that enables people to do everything from check claims and account balances, locate nearby urgent care facilities and ERs, and quickly connect to the health plan. He says the app also enables people to access an experienced registered nurse 24 hours per day/seven days per week for advice regarding any kind of medical question.

"Unique, innovative apps can also help consumers and health care providers make better, smarter and safer decisions," writes Martha Wofford, a vice president at Aetna.

As an example, Wofford cites iTriage, one of the most popular health and fitness apps with more than 8 million downloads that allows users to research their symptoms, find a medical provider that best serves their needs, and book appointments all from their smartphone. "iTriage is one of several resources that we are using to help connect health care providers and patients with powerful, personal technology," she says.

In the Nuance guide, clinicians also weigh in on how their healthcare organizations are leveraging mobile technology today and how they plan to leverage mobile advancements in the coming year and in the not too distant future.

One of the most prominent physicians featured in the guide is cardiologist Eric Topol, chief academic officer of Scripps Health and professor of genomics at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, as well as author of "The Creative Destruction of Medicine." Over the next five years, Topol says there will be a fundamental shift for who accesses and "owns" medical data and information.

"Although this is presently in the doctor's domain, and has been for medicine's long history, the biggest single advance will be the about-face to true consumer empowerment," he writes in the guide. "An individual will not just be reading about population level data, but will be seeing real-time smartphone display of his or her own data and information—data that in many cases was not even obtainable until quite recently."

Topol was interviewed recently by FierceHealthIT. In part one of this exclusive interview, he talked about the importance of using digital tools, and gave his take on the progress of genome sequencing. In part two, Topol discussed the future of hospitals, social media and accountability in healthcare.

To learn more:
- read the Nuance guide