Where will research be in future of mHealth

The business sector has traditionally handled disruption and disruptive technologies with somewhat open arms. The best of the best is quickly identified and moved into production by consumer demand. Academia, on the other hand, is steeped in tradition and  –  from my limited experience with technology transfer  –  struggles with separating the wheat from the chaff.  Compound the issue with the emerging discussion of “consumerism” in healthcare and innovators, researchers and even the tried and true method of the market can contract pilotitis.

So what research trends can we expect to see in the mHealth space?

The confluence of social science and evidence-based medicine. One of the trends I see in the future is further integration of social science (well versed at evaluating quality) and evidence-based medicine (traditionally empirical) studies. Looking at how the National Institute of Mental Health categorizes medicine, the mHealth space will be a combination of both “treatment” and “prevention” as devices and platforms are well suited for both approaches.

The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) polls American attitudes on clinical research. In that poll, 51 percent believe clinical trials to be somewhat safe. I would posit the vast majority of respondents assumed the trials to be treatment-oriented or perhaps have a response bias when answering the question. But what if I told you I was going to use an accessory device and your own smartphone to help with prevention and possible treatment? Would the perceptions of research change?

The possibility of collecting both physical data and other “behavioral” data points is a major advantage of the mobile device. Privacy and security concerns aside, the capability is there to have an understanding of many factors associated with healthy living  –  for example, the simultaneous ability to track stress levels, medication adherence and perhaps the number of calendar appointments you make. Intrusive, perhaps, but important variables in a long-term study and possibly correlated.

The paths to knowledge may be quite different, private vs. academic approaches, but the glide slope and end point should be the same: improved health and healthcare. Some of the challenges of reaching mHealth sustainability will be in overcoming many of our predisposed notions of what “is” and “is not” research. While some of the discussions above may be comparing apples to oranges, the point is that a mobile device is no longer “just a phone”  –  it’s many things.


Likewise, the research that will help move mHealth forward will be more than just one study, trend or finding. The mHealth industry  –  academia and private sectors  –  will need to view research as a platform of many different components to achieve sustainability. New technology will aid existing methodologies for data collection and in some instances improve more traditional approaches to gathering evidence.

Source: mHimss.org


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