Why medical expertise is a must-have for mHealth tech development

When it comes to designing, developing and building new mobile healthcare tools, many of the most successful ventures typically have one factor in common: accredited healthcare expertise.

Proof is evident in the foray the Mayo Clinic has made with mHealth technology, as well as other pilots and deployments led by the healthcare institution and providers.

As FierceMobileHealthcare reported last week, the Mayo Clinic is teaming up with Apple on the vendor's HealthKit, a virtual service framework fostering data sharing between patients and medical professionals, third-party devices such as Nike's FuelBand and medical institutions.

Earlier this year we wrote about how the clinic and a California startup created a new mobile health app featuring a telemedicine service offering a personal health assistant. That assistant can prescribe limited drugs via the phone, and has access to personalized health information, electronic medical records and an automated symptom checker on a 24/7 basis.

"Our culture of learning, innovation, and the desire to find answers has allowed Mayo to remain at the forefront of health and wellness, and we want to extend this expertise to people anywhere," Paul Limburg, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions, said in an announcement. "We collaborated with and invested in Better to create a powerful way for people to connect with Mayo Clinic in their homes and communities, wherever they are."

Other top medical institutions are also finding success with mHealth initiatives. For instance, Steven J. Hardy, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at Children's National Health System in the District of Columbia, wants to engage families and patients in conversations about how they're managing illness and use mobile gaming as the tool to do so. Speaking with FierceMobileHealthcare in an exclusive interview, Hardy discussed a pilot the hospital is conducting for children with sickle cell disease. The kids play a game on a mobile platform (in this case, an iPad) that helps them with an often-overlooked symptom of sickle cell disease--memory loss.

And a Harvard Innovation Lab startup aims to bolster patient treatment by enhancing coordination and communication among caregivers with an mHealth app that lets healthcare teams text, share images and videos and always have a patient list within reach.

The startup, Boston-based Seratis, describes its technology as a patient-centric care coordination tool that provides all necessary patient data that updates in real-time. It was developed and designed by physician Divya Dhar after years of frustrating medical care experiences.

"For numerous patients, I felt like their care was compromised," Dhar recently told BetaBoston. "It was hard to know who else was looking after a patient. I knew there was a nurse, but I didn't know who that nurse was. That information was not readily available."

That Dhar knew first-hand the communications issues and the obstacles they presented to patient care helped create a system with the potential to be embraced by many fellow providers. Her real-life insight and experiences played into the ease of use regarding the app, a key factor in the success of any software.

"We've found anyone can use it," Dhar told FierceMobileHealthcare. "In fact we've had doctors who only use their iPhone for messaging and calls and tell us they found it very easy to use. It takes less than a couple of minutes to learn since it's highly intuitive."

Between Mayo, Children's and the efforts of Dhar, the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Incorporating legitimate and accredited medical insight into the mHealth app and device creation process is a must. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)