Integration, dash of fun vital for mobile apps
If mobile medical apps are going to stand any chance of survival – with physicians as well as consumers – they'll have to be able to integrate.
They'll need to integrate with other devices and healthcare platforms, with electronic medical records and personal health records, to give physicians meaningful data with which to improve clinical outcomes. And they'll need to integrate with the consumer's "pleasure points," providing compelling reasons to use them that go beyond those "not-so-sexy" health benefits.
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That was the general theme of several sessions at Thursday's mHealth World Congress, in its second day of a three-day stint at the Collonade Hotel in Boston.
To Victor Strecher, PhD, MPH, professor and director for innovation and social entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, mobile health programs will only succeed if they tap into behavior change. Personal decisions, he pointed out, are the leading cause of death in the United States, so affecting how those decisions are made can have an impact.
Unfortunately, he added, only about 40 percent of physicians believe mHealth tools can affect behavioral change.
"I think we need better behavioral scientists," he concluded.
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Others believe social media and gaming hold the keys to mHealth success. Mobile devices are the "digital fireplace," said Douglas Goldstein, an eFuturist and newly hired executive for mHealth developer Diversinet. As such, he said, they offer the opportunity to "go to where people are," connect with their social circles and reach them when they're having the most fun.
The issue then lies with positioning them where they'll be noticed, used and retained.
"The battle going forward is point-of-presence on the handset," he said.
Thursday's sessions offered a wide range of examples of successful mHealth programs, from the Joslin Diabetes Center's "Joslin Everywhere" and "Joslin Inside" programs to mobile apps and mHealth wellness programs developed by Independence Blue Cross, United Healthcare, Aetna and several Blue Cross and Blue Shield associations around the country. Each focuses on using mHealth platforms and tools to reach a target population, compel them to manage or improve their lifestyle and behaviors, and reward them for achieving certain milestones or results.