Bringing disparate healthcare solutions together could be the catalyst to drive adoption to a scale that can translate into large scale healthcare transformation.
Most mobile health (mHealth) initiatives typically focus on singluar solutions—simple mobile apps, cloud-based data management solutions, new consumer medical devices, virtual clinics, remote management, and many more that get added every day. Very few really look at getting them all to work together. And yet, that’s what needs to happen; we must manage the connectivity. Until we do, many singluar initiatives will stay at the periphery of the healthcare ecosystem.
The looming threat of unsustainable healthcare costs around the world has generated significant market attention. Some are predicting that these costs will reach 15 percent of global GDP, and in some countries even reaching an astronomical 30 percent. The challenge to deliver effective and affordable healthcare appears to be almost an afterthought.
This is not a new challenge, but there seems to be renewed interest because of the new category of healthcare management enabled by mHealth, eHealth, or connected healthcare. More often than not these terms refer to the application of mobile technology and communication solutions to transform healthcare service delivery.
There may be a lot of hype but the category is still in infancy, and commercial viability is still to be tested. The ecosystem itself is complex with multiple entities, including government agencies, public and private healthcare service providers, pharma and medical device vendors, and users.
The current focus is mostly on point-solutions—these include data aggregation and management (e.g. healthcare records, cloud-based storage and backup, etc.), mobile applications (e.g. monitoring of lifestyle diseases, wellness applications, health information access, etc.), remote healthcare management (e.g. pill adherance, diagnostics and patient-centric monitoring, etc. ), and tele-medicine (e.g. tele-triage services, mobile healthcare vans, etc.).
Adoption of these services requires as much a change in industry outlook and social behaviours, as it does in making these services seamless and integrated. The true impact of these point services will be seen only if they are all tied together into an end-to-end solution. The question is who is best equipped to tie all the pieces together, especially with the ongoing convergence of telecom, information, and healthcare. In fact, the telcos seem to be best equipped to facilitate end-to-end solutions, but to be successful they will need to move beyond their current connectivity orientation and adapt to the speed and business models of the connected world paradigm.
What’s needed now is the ability to establish a connected managed service that provides the underlying connectivity and communication infrastructure while also having the ability to manage operations and support to facilitate the connection of the healthcare ecosystem. This would allow healthcare service providers to focus on their core strengths around healthcare, while innovating new models of service delivery. A “connected service” would automatically take care of connectivity (including 24-7 managed support), and add value through advanced connectivity management—monitoring, diagnostics, and service assurance. It could also evolve into a central entity to integrate disparate data sources, perform data analytics (including understanding user behaviour and profiles), and create service aggregation portals to create a single-point delivery for end-users.
When that happens the disparate services would all be seamlessly integrated. Extended connectivity will maximize returns on innovation on the individual planes—medical devices, healthcare service delivery models, information access, and management—and make a true impact on healthcare service. From where we stand today, it’s quite clear that we are still a few years away from seeing this. And yet, if we can make this happen, we can touch lives as nothing else can.
This article first appeared on Aricent Connect on 21 September 2011 (http://blog.aricent.com/blog/managed-connectivity-and-mhealth)