You can track your steps but your doctor can’t: what needs to change for healthcare to embrace mobile

There’s a serious flaw in the emerging mobile healthcare market


Do you know how many steps you’ve taken today? If so, you’re joining millions of Americans who are embracing mobile technology to improve their health. Healthcare providers aren’t among those millions, however, even though they desperately want to be.

Care providers would love to be able to track patients’ vital signs, exercise data, and sleep patterns to improve the quality of care they can provide. But they can’t, for one simple reason: the vast majority of apps we use to collect our health data aren’t HIPAA-compliant–they don’t store or transmit data securely. This means that we can eagerly adopt healthcare tracking apps for their own personal use, but hospitals can’t use the data from those apps to improve our healthcare. That’s a serious flaw in the emerging mobile healthcare market–a flaw Imprivata and other Boston-based mobile healthcare leaders gathered to discuss at MassTLC’s Mobile: Transforming Life and Business mini-conference earlier this week. There, I joined a panel with Mike Putnam, SVP of Consumer Markering at American Well, Kent Siri, Director of Marketing at Kyruus, and Paris Wallace, CEO of Ovuline. Our conversation was moderated by Erin Trimble, Manager of Business Dev More Disruption Please at athenahealth. 


Mobile health platforms need to be built with current security and financial incentive models in mind


The conclusion from our conversation the MassTLC conference was clear: healthcare can only embrace the boundless potential of mobile technologies if those technologies are designed to fit the security policies and financial incentive systems healthcare providers grapple with. The healthcare technology market can’t be as easily disrupted as mobile e-commerce, transportation, or mobile banking markets can be, because the stakes are higher in healthcare. If your credit card information is stolen from a mobile network, your bank can make you whole again. But, if your sensitive health data gets leaked, you can never be compensated for your loss of privacy.

Patient health information and patient identifiers are some of the most sensitive assets hospitals are mandated to protect, under law. So hospitals aren’t going to embrace unsecure mobile technologies any time soon. Hospitals need mobile technologies that are built with their enterprise needs in mind – technologies that support clinical workflows, improve patient safety, and protect patient information. Mobile also needs to make sense for hospitals, financially.Hospitals are businesses with policy-level financial incentives that impact their technology decisions.


Integrating new business models and incentive structures to promote mobile adoption will be very important, from a political and policy perspective. But, that will likely be a slow process. In the meantime, we can continue to motivate healthcare to adopt mobile technologies by building the most secure, workflow-positive platforms we can. And we can continue to have critical conversations about how, and why, healthcare can embrace mobile technology. The discussion we had this week at MassTLC’s Mobile: Transforming Life and Business might have been a small step, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.