Mobile healthcare (mHealth) is “the biggest technology breakthrough of our time [being used] to address our greatest national challenge”, said Kathleen Sebelius – US health and human services secretary.
This would sound so well if healthcare’s strong resistance to change would not slow adoption of innovative mHealth. New technology is not enough. Widespread adoption of mHealth will require changes in behaviour of actors who are trying to protect their interests. The challenge will be even greater for innovators because the improvements that mHealth can bring—such as patient-centred care and a greater focus on prevention—will involve disruption of how healthcare is provided.
To succeed, innovators must manoeuvre through culturally conservative, highly regulated and fragmented yet often monopolistic systems that often provide contradictory incentives.
The Economist Intelligence Unit report, commissioned by PwC, shows that the diversity of interests at play makes an evolving landscape even more complex. Patients want more convenient provision of healthcare, but they also want greater control. For doctors, mHealth can help provide better patient care and ease their administrative headaches, but they are likely to resist the loss of power implicit in greater patient control. Payers already display interest in mHealth, and the economic pressure for more patient-centred, preventive care is likely to drive them further towards the patient’s viewpoint.
So, is the technology existence a success criterion? Widespread mHealth adoption requires services and products that appeal to current payers because patients, highly sensitive to price, will provide little income. Consumers’ sense of entitlement with regard to healthcare aggravates this price sensitivity. Accordingly, vendors must concentrate on solving payers’ problems. Technology is an essential, but not sufficient, tool in this endeavour.