International mHealth vs. Domestic mHealth: Should Borders Define Our Efforts?

Posted on December 26, 2011 I Written By

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mHealth is quickly becoming one of the most exciting parts of the healthcare industry, but according to this article, there is a competitive nature between mHealth developers internationally, versus those in the US.  There are a couple of very interesting points that are made by Kate Otto in her piece.

However it is crucial to note that the world is no longer divided, and perhaps never even was, by the boundaries of America vs. the rest, or developed countries vs. developing, or rich vs. poor nations. Within every country’s borders there are marginalized communities in need of improved access to quality healthcare. And this is where the true promise of mHealth lies: in deeply understanding the needs, behaviors, and norms of people at most serious risk of disease and death.

Healthcare is by no means the only arena where there can be a sense of America vs. everyone else, but of all industries shouldn’t doctors be the ones to look past any competition, real or perceived, to do what is best for the patient?  And maybe that is the difficulty in this area: developing tools that truly benefit the patient, but are also profitable.  If there is no profit in the business why would anyone be interested in pursuing it?

Sharing and discussing research designs and methodologies is even more crucial for this fast-moving field. As several Summit sessions discussed, testing specific tools, that could be rendered obsolete in a matter of months, will be a less useful tactic than testing how phone functionalities (adaptable to different devices) can impact health outcomes.

This is something I hadn’t really considered yet seems so obvious.  Technology is developing so rapidly that what is hot news today is old hat within a month or two.  Healthcare will be no different, which is why it is essential that the focus come back to the patient and their needs.  Along those lines, it is also essential that doctors be involved in development to ensure that new developments provide real value.

But I hope that by next year’s mHealth Summit, the mHealth community’s conversations are comparing not just geographic struggles, but strategies to understand end-user experience, human behavior, and how people function before technology enters the picture, no matter where they are on the planet. That way, we can fall into line not as two separate camps of international or domestic people, but more effectively, as thepeople-people.

This summarizes the whole message quite well.  Healthcare is not something that should be compartmentalized by the borders that we have established.  People are people no matter where they are, and technology should not impact that.  All that should matter in the development of mHealth is that people are being taken care of, and their needs are being fulfilled.