Doctor or patient? Who will drive mHealth?
Who’s more important to the advancement of mHealth – the physician or the patient?
To Krishnan Ganapathy, of the Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation in India, the answer quite clearly is the physician – and he’s quite sure that all this new technology and all these new services won’t be accepted by people unless it’s all recommended by their physicians first. But to Joseph Kvedar of Partners Healthcare’s Center for Connected Health, the future of mHealth may lie with the patient.
“I think there is a role for automated coaching and maybe, maybe, the doctor isn’t the center of the universe,” he said.
Ganapathy and Kvedar were two members of a five-person panel at the mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. for Tuesday morning’s Super Session, titled “Mobile Health in the Clinical Enterprise.” In an hour-long session taken up almost entirely by each panelist’s opening remarks, the conversation centered primarily on how mHealth initiatives can be advanced, and who should do the advancing.
Ganapathy’s argument focuses on his native country of India, which holds one-sixth of the world’s population but where “mHealth is conspicuous by its absence.” He said primary care physicians aren’t adopting mHealth because it might hurt their business, and the general public won’t adopt it unless their doctors tell them to.
“Unless the general practitioner is incentivized he isn’t going to fall in love with mHealth,” Ganpathy added. “The ordinary physician is yet to be excited by this fancy new tool. … Is it possible that the mobile phone is perceived as a threat?”
Ganpathy said mHealth initiatives need to focus on the human being rather than the technology – the health, rather than the ‘m.’ There are more mHealth pilots than there are pilots in the American and Indian air forces, he added, because the emphasis isn’t on the physician or the patient, but the technology.
“Good healthcare is not ordering pizza on a mobile phone,” he concluded.
Kvedar took a different view. “Our patients are our biggest untapped resource,” he said, outlining “an exciting new frontier” that focuses on patient-centered care. He argued that mHealth initiatives are moving toward improving the lines and levels of communication between physicians and their patients, so that the patient can be empowered to take care of his or her own health.
In that sense, he said, the physician would be part of a network but not at its center.