Health IT

Is mobile health dead? Boston gathering says no

If mobile health is dead, someone forgot to tell the organizers, presenters and attendees at mHealth + Telehealth World. At the very least, it’s a relevant subset of telehealth.

Don’t write the obituary for mobile health just yet.

The mHealth Initiative has come and gone. So has the Mobile Health Expo and related Mobile Health Association. The people behind Health 2.0 — a trademarked term — don’t like the m-health appellation either. (For that matter, “mHealth” just looks wrong, with that arbitrary capital letter. Unless you also are prepared to write “eMail,” type out the freaking hyphen and keep it lowercase.)

Certainly, mobile is a platform, one of many ways to deliver technology, but some still see it as a distinct strategy for reaching clinicians, patients and caregivers.

A year and a half ago, Dr. Eric Topol went on prime-time TV and said he prescribes more apps than drugs — a bold statement for any physician, but especially for a cardiologist. (So what if the host and correspondent for that “Rock Center” segment on NBC, Brian Williams and Dr. Nancy Snyderman, have since torpedoed their own TV careers?)

At HIMSS15 in April, Matt Tindall of IMS Health called prescribing of mobile apps “thriving” rather than “dead,” though he did have a product to flog.

This week, World Congress is holding its annual mHealth (their title, not mine) + Telehealth World event in Boston. If m-health is dead, someone forgot to tell the organizers, presenters and attendees here. At the very least, it’s a relevant subset of telehealth.

Smartphones changed telehealth, Dr. Shafiq Rab, vice president and CIO, at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., said Tuesday at the conference. “Mobility has changed the game between the haves and the have-nots,” Rab said. More importantly, he added, “Mobile is putting [purchasing] power in the hands of the patient,” shifting it away from payers.

On the other hand, some are relying on tired tropes, suggesting it’s time to innovate again. Much in the way that the last two HIMSS conferences featured more than a few instances of passé trends like the “Harlem Shake” and the “Keep calm” meme, one vendor posted this tweet on Monday:

It’s hard to believe, but “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” is 18 years old. The most recent Austin Powers movie came out in 2002. It seems as if m-health peaked about five years ago, but some remain quite bullish about it.