Although not true for all practitioners—getting physicians to adopt new technologies is like getting people to leave their cars at home and take mass transit. Commuters want to see a clear benefit to taking the bus; “saving the planet” usually is too abstract. If it takes twice as long to get anywhere, and you can’t stop at the grocery on the way, you will stick to your car to get around. Likewise, doctors want to see how the effort and expense of yet another technology initiative will benefit them before they get on board.
Mobile health, or “mHealth,” is no exception. MHealth leverages mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, so that doctors can collect, store, and analyze health information more readily, and access applications that can assist with diagnosis or the selection of treatment options. It sounds great, and various mHealth technologies and applications are already making a difference in parts of the world that lack ready access to mainstream healthcare. But in industrialized nations, doctors—many of whom, according to a 2015 survey, are already dissatisfied with the environment in which they work—see mHealth as another expensive, time-consuming initiative with no immediate benefit.
And they’re right. The value of an information system lies not in the amount of data in the system, nor the ease with which it got there, but the analysis and interpretation of the data—that is, the ability to gain knowledge and insight, and to decide from the data. The trouble is, it takes time to accumulate enough data to make meaningful inferences. Until that happens, mHealth is little more than a data entry tool, which many practitioners already have in some form or fashion.
So what can be done to get physicians to adopt mHealth?
Here’s a crazy idea: Ask the doctors. Find out where their pain points are—that is, what areas of seeing patients, understanding symptoms, performing tests, making diagnoses, and formulating treatments are too time consuming, too cumbersome, or too unreliable, and how technology could help find problems that the mobile platform is best suited to solve. Get the requirements and set up partnerships between the doctors and the app developers. That way, the physicians drive innovation that makes their working lives easier, rather than “innovation” driving them…up the wall.
(Granted, getting medical device software approved for distribution in the U.S. is an arduous task involving clinical trials and other regulatory hurdles, but at least the efforts would be towards something that will, upon release, have an immediate benefit.)
The idea is to give physicians solutions to their problems that take advantage of the mobile platform, to do things they can’t do well (or easily, or at all) with their current technologies. Small, focused solutions that make an immediate impact will see quicker adoption than large, expensive, ambiguous projects with little clear short-term benefit.
In this way, mHealth can get momentum and support from medical practitioners, and the medical community can work its way up to the comprehensive, integrated system that many mHealth proponents envision. It might take more time to get there, but the journey will be much more fruitful.
Written by Dean Van Dyke, Vice President, Business Process Optimization
Dean Van Dyke is the Vice President of Business Process Optimization for iBridge. He brings more than 18 years of customer relations, business process outsourcing, lean six sigma, program/project management, records management, manufacturing, and vendor management experience to iBridge. Mr. Van Dyke was the former head of Microsoft’s corporate records and information management team, and served honorably for over fourteen years in the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and his Master’s in Business Administration from Colorado Technical University.