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Recommendations for mHealth identified at roundtable event

By Fraser Edward

In June, the CATAAlliance Mobile Health Advisory Board published a summary report from its Mobile Health Roundtable event, which was held in Ottawa.

“The inaugural mobile health roundtable was a first step in building awareness of mobile health in Canada,” said John Reid, President & CEO, CATAAlliance. “We are thrilled with the response and excited to have brought together some 70 stakeholders from government, hospitals, healthcare, industry, start-ups, academia, consultancies and the not-for-profit sector,” Reid added.

At the event, six broad themes were identified as requirements to enable mHealth in Canada:

• Personal health information. Canadians want to be “enabled participants” in their own health and wellness. To achieve this, patients need greater access to their health information via provincial personal health records, patient portals, etc. Secondly, greater interoperability or a common data set is required to facilitate greater exchange of data. Thirdly, health professionals require systems to manage, share and respond to the anticipated volume of health data generated by mHealth solutions.

• Reimbursement models. To simulate adoption and integrate mHealth as part of standard care practices, mHealth needs to be supported within physician and institutional payment models. A combination of introducing mobile, virtual and remote care options into billing code nomenclature and a continued move towards an outcome based payment models is required.

• Gap between innovation and adoption. To close this gap, healthcare institutions need to drive a shift in emphasis from perpetual trials to mass adoption. While the yard stick must be on quantifiable results, flexibility in funding models and innovation in procurement processes would allow innovation to enter the healthcare system.

• Education and awareness. To achieve mass adoption, the value of mHealth innovation needs to be showcased across Canada. Canadians, administrators and medical practitioners need support materials to help them select and safely use mHealth solutions. Particular focus on privacy and security concerns should be emphasized.

• Mobile health app certification. With over 100,000 health apps available today, helping consumers and clinicians to identify solutions that are both safe and clinically effective is important. Attendees proposed an industry-led certification ‘seal of approval’ system to achieve this.

• mHealth champions. Physicians, pharmacists and other health professionals are required to build trust in mHealth solutions efficacy for Canadians. They will do this if armed with appropriate data and evidence of real outcomes. As always, definitive results are the most powerful enabler for adoption.

With significant announcements about Apple’s Health Kit and Samsung’s Simband, and an abundance of wearable devices and smart watches hitting the shelves, it is definitely time to enable mHealth to live up to its promise in Canada.

While this is not an easy journey, one thing is certain – we need to make room in our healthcare system to make mobile innovations part of the mainstream. I see no other way to achieve the one thing our system has always lacked – a truly engaged and enabled patient. That’s the power of mHealth.

After all, mobile health (mHealth) innovations promise to have a measurable impact on health outcomes while at the same time facilitating new efficiencies in Canada’s healthcare systems. Understanding the opportunities and challenges to find a way forward is an important task, one that was taken up by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance) and its Mobile Health Advisory Board (www.CATA.ca/communities/mhab/).

Modernizing healthcare in Canada is notoriously challenging and complex. Our healthcare sector is one that has evolved over time, with little system-wide design. As a result it contains many barriers – physician reimbursement models, regulatory framework, budgetary constraints, procurement processes, information silos and privacy concerns, to name a few.

All of these factors add up to preserving the status quo and hinder necessary change.

Every week, I read about an exciting mHealth application, device or accessory that is brimming with promise. At face value they each present undeniable possibilities for improvement.

They all have a clear use-case, compelling patient benefits and a quantifiable return on investment. So, with all this innovation, where is the mHealth momentum? The fact is, unless we have structural change in our system, this innovation, although interesting, will remain irrelevant.

Fraser Edward is a Director at Telus Health, based in Guelph, Ont. He is also a member of CATAAlliance Mobile Health Advisory Board. He can be reached on Twitter @FraserEdward.

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