mHealth – The Naysayers. The Second in a Series.

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home”

Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society.

I know, I know an anecdote does not a compelling argument make, but when my mother began to text me from her phone, I knew something was up, and now she’s using Facebook on her iPad, heaven help us.

But I hear it all the time, the questions from the naysayers in regards to mobile health…

  • What about the elderly?
  • What about the poor and disadvantaged? Or,
  • Mobile health and the new technologies will just create even more disparities.

Yes there is certainly a learning curve to new technologies and many of our seniors may have missed the opportunity. According to a report from the Pew Research Centers Internet and American Life Project, done in February of this year, 13% of seniors own a smart phone, but the rate of adoption is increasing.

One of the interesting statistics that is sure to drive senior use of mobile technology over the coming years, is:

By 2020 it is estimated that approximately 160 million Americans will be monitored and treated remotely for one or more chronic conditions.

And in a few short years us baby boomers, who are already going mobile, with smart phone adoption rates almost as large as the younger generations, will be rolling over to that seniors category.

As for the other naysayers, Can those from the lower socioeconomic groups incorporate these costly technologies into their lives? I recall in the mid 90’s when I joined a Medicaid HMO, we were the only plan sending our introductory plan information out to new members on a VHS cassette. Our CEO had surveyed Medicaid beneficiaries before he opened the plan and found that about 90% of them had VHS players.

A similar situation holds true for smart phones, while we are nowhere near 90%, a significant percentage of the population has or will be incorporating this new technology into their lives. And as costs continue to drop, they will achieve more widespread use. It is also interesting to note that some health companies are exploring providing phones to people who can’t afford them, recognizing the positive impact they can have on health management and reducing health care costs. Will it be long before they provide smart phones with apps? Or can bill for the services provided through a smart phone?

Mobile phones and particularly smart phones are here and they are the future. The continued growth in the use of this technology in all socio-demographics and the continued reduction in costs make this the platform of the now and future. But can this technology change behavior?

About Fred Goldstein

President and Founder of Accountable Health, LLC. My background includes over 25 years of health care experience in hospital administration, health plan management, disease management and population health.
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