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January 8, 2013

mHealth Moving Along

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The 2013 AT&T Developer Summit is underway in Las Vegas today.  One of the many sessions hosted by AT&T, which are aimed at developers who are developing products, apps mainly, for use on their platform, was about mHealth, a sub-part of health technology.

Mobile health is an exciting area for many reasons but not the least is the huge potential for better outcomes for patients and opportunities for industry.

As it turns out, the average person looks at their phone about 150 times a day or every 6.5 minutes.  This constant attention to one device provides a great opportunity to get the right information to people at the right time.  But do they want the information?  It is a good question given that medical app use as expressed by downloading has held steady at 11% for the last two years.  Sure, more apps are being downloaded now than even two years ago, but given the opportunities one would expect that, especially since twice as many people are looking up health info on mobile devices.

One challenge to greater use might not be so obvious—too much data and not enough information.

Let's say that diabetics want to use an app to better manage their disease. They might have to juggle as many as six data points to be successful, and potentially even multiple apps, for notifications/reminders, diet, body mass, glucose readings, activity and medication. And frankly, the data points are meaningless.  What a patient needs is the analysis of these data points, some guidance, a story.

Delivery of the guidance, a plan of action, is the promise of health technology going well beyond electronic health records.  And that delivery is underway.  Health technology companies are aware that end users want mHealth and are moving at increasing speeds in that direction.  Over the next four years shipments of mHealth devices are expected to be up over 500%, and as of 2012 100% of health care enterprise system stakeholders report some activity in the mHealth space.

Other important steps to allow mHealth to reach its greatest potential are secure storage, systems integration, and further app development.  Not surprisingly, at an AT&T conference we were told that the company has delivered a story—an open health care ecosystem with access to data, storage and standards.  You can read more about that product and what AT&T is doing here (

While many are anticipating lots of excitement around driverless cars and connected homes tomorrow at CES, one should wonder why health technology or even mHealth is not a bigger part of the story this year.  Health tech needs more champions to move it from the domain of regulators and hospitals to where it belongs, in the imaginations of innovators and the hands of consumers.

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