Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: The Necessity of Partnerships in mHealth (as in Most Things)

The Necessity of Partnerships in mHealth (as in Most Things)

Project Manager

At the recent HIMMS mHealth Summit in National Harbor, MD, nothing was made clearer to me than the importance of partnerships when it comes to advancing mHealth. Partnerships should be forged not only among the likely stakeholders, but across disciplines and sectors.

But first, what is mHealth? The "m," as you may suspect, stands for "mobile," making mHealth "the use of mobile and wireless devices to improve health outcomes, health care services and health research." I was mostly familiar with mHealth in the form of health apps for mobile phones, fitness trackers (like FitBit), and text message-based interventions for things like tobacco cessation, fitness, and chronic disease management. But as it turns out, mHealth encompasses so much more than what I had originally conceived. MHealth can also apply to electronic health records (EHR) and the many ways in which they are being made portable, various monitoring devices (wearable or not) for numerous indications and bodily measures, or even as a means of training health care workers.

Traditional health care requires a certain degree of collaboration, especially when it comes to coordinating care among different specialties. But the development of mHealth tools requires collaboration on a much broader scale. It includes collaboration between physicians, insurance companies, regulators (to ensure privacy compliance) and technology gurus, to name a few, to enable BETTER collaboration between specialists and their patients. It allows a patient to monitor his or her chronic disease through wearable (or portable) devices and share the results with their provider if necessary. And, in the most basic sense of the word "mobile," mHealth can be a van that delivers health services to rural areas who otherwise may not have access to a physician. When done well, mHealth allows a patient and their primary care physician to coordinate care and preventative medicine to the utmost degree, which in turn greatly reduces the use of emergency care as first-line treatment.

In the public health sphere, mHealth allows us to deliver interventions on a greater scale than ever before. Through text message interventions in particular, but also through other innovative interventions, we are able to disseminate tailored health and wellness interventions to people in a way that is responsive to their needs. With the use of keywords, subscribers of text message-based interventions can get real-time responses when they need it. For example, if a smoker who is trying to quit has a craving, they can receive advice in the moment for ways to manage the craving. In addition, the increased capacity of primary medicine that is enabled by mHealth improves the health of the public at large.

So although it is easy to think apps when you hear the term mHealth, it is important to know that it means so much more. MHealth is changing care delivery, and it is changing health communication as it helps facilitate improved collaboration among care providers and between providers and patients. MHealth remains a fairly new concept, and it will be exciting to see where and how it grows from here.

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