Weak user commitment, mHealth tool reliability present adoption hurdles

Privacy concerns and data security may not be the top obstacles in mHealth technology adoption. The biggest hurdles may be getting patients and consumers to use such tools in a more dedicated fashion and boosting the reliability of emerging monitoring and tracking devices to spur user activity, according to a recent MIT Technology Review article.

While mobile fitness devices and mHealth apps are proliferating in rapid fashion, consumer commitment to use and interest is not as strong.

"There are unrealistic expectations for when and how mobile health is going to come together," Patricia Mechael, former executive director of the mHealth Alliance, told Technology Review. In the U.S., she said, "we are somewhere between the peak of the hype cycle and the trough of disillusionment."

M-health tools are nowhere near mainstream adoption and continue to be viewed by many as a novelty in the healthcare sector, according to Karen Taylor, research director for Deloitte's UK Center for Health Solutions. Taylor, in a recent blog post, said that even with healthy consumer enthusiasm and more proof of the benefits apps can provide, several hurdles remain.

"Part of the problem is that patients face a confusing array of mHealth apps with little guidance on their quality or advice and support from their doctors," Taylor said. "While doctors can see the potential benefits of mHealth apps, they remain wary of formally recommending them to patients."

Yet the Technology Review article illustrates that users will support and participate well-designed mobile health systems, citing a study at Boston's Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare network.

The study tapped activity monitors, text messaging and data from a patient's electronic health record to help diabetics attain health goals and provide patient support through treatment. The program provided physicians real-time progress reports using a color-coded system: green for good progress, yellow reflecting potential issues and red indicating patients were not responding to the messaging.

The results almost bested drug interaction therapy, according to Kamal Jethwani, who ran the study.

"I've never heard any patient say, 'How do you know so much about me?' or 'Why do you know so much?'" he told Technology Review. "Instead, they say 'Now that you know all this about me, can you give me more useful information?'"

The study result aligns with a recent FICO survey that revealed four out of five smartphone users worldwide are interested in mHealth technology that will let them interact with healthcare providers.

For more information:
- read the MIT Technology Review article