Moving mHealth to the Next Frontier: Aligning Patients, Physicians, Healthcare Providers & Payers

June 10, 2012

“Health data is no longer a government initiative. It is an American initiative.”  Such were the words spoken by U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park, at this week’s Health Datapalooza.  Organized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Health Care Foundation and HHS, more than one hundred applications and websites, all powered by open data, took center stage at the exposition.

As Derek Newell, CEO of Jiff, illustrated in a recent Forbes article, mHealth has the ability to revolutionize healthcare delivery by providing the following:

  • Improved access to care
  • Improved patient engagement
  • New provider of business models
  • Reduced medicare fraud
  • Improved patient safety

Absent Medicare fraud, I daresay that without patient engagement…the other four will likely fail in this business model.  And while I applaud the pioneering efforts of this growing movement, I also wonder what will it take for patients to truly embrace these applications?

One innovative solution, mRx, has been developed by Happtique, the first mobile health store for healthcare professionals by healthcare professionals.  Utilizing the mRx technology, physicians can ‘prescribe’ apps and send them directly to the patients’ mobile devices, thereby increasing the likelihood of download and implementation.

While drawing a causal relationship between patient and provider is critical, is it not equally important for the patient to be incentivized to adhere to the ‘prescribed therapy’?  According to Joanne Wu, MD, MPH, the answer is a resounding yes.  In her article, Rewarding Healthy Behaviors-Pay Patients for Performance, Dr. Wu asserts that rewarding clinicians in the form of pay-for-performance (P4P) has produced lackluster results due to the challenge of patient behavior modification.  Instead, she proposes that patients be rewarded for achieving evidence-based health goals.  Rewards would be issued in the form of discounts towards co-payments for doctor’s visits, procedures, and medications, thereby potentially reducing cost and compliance issues.

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There is no denying that the efforts of the Healthcare Data Initiative Forum III, aka Healthcare Datapalooza, are  truly innovative.  And now that the data has been liberated, shouldn’t we be turning our attention to how it is being utilized?  While the definition of the provider role is changing, it remains the fulcrum for healthcare service delivery. With the development of certification and standardized processes, these tools could one day be required CME training for physicians, allied health and nursing personnel.  And only when the federal government and payers take an active role in the design of a payment system bearing incentives will we move mobile health to the next frontier by aligning patients, physicians, healthcare providers and payers.