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The Future of mHealth May be Health Industry Collaboration

A recent whitepaper reflects on the future of mHealth, emphasizing the importance of healthcare industry cooperation and regulation.

By Sara Heath

mHealth stakeholders may wish to consider investing in partnerships with other members of the health IT industry, suggests a new white paper from the law firm Hogan Lovells in partnership with the EBD Group.

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According to the report, the mHealth industry will thrive on a complex web of industry partnerships and collaboration between stakeholders.

“In order for new technologies and innovations to achieve their potential impact, it will require all of the different stakeholders, such as developers, clinicians, scientists, investors, government agencies, academic institutions and patients to collaborate in new, meaningful ways that will ultimately benefit us all,” the paper asserts.

Industry collaboration may identify new directions in mHealth, helping to clarify goals and use cases for different digital tools. For example, collaboration between physician users and developers could result in a tool easily integrated into clinician workflows.

The brief also touches on the importance of partnerships between larger groups – such as health systems or major industry players – and small mHealth startups. The manpower behind larger groups paired with the niche expertise at mHealth startups could help drive innovation.

“Data analytics, predictive analytics, and precision medicine have transformed the way we approach patient care,” said Anna Chrisman of EBD Group, one of the whitepaper’s sponsors.

“Creating a viable regulatory and commercial infrastructure for these technologies through key partnerships and life science companies, government agencies, investors, the patient community, and other stakeholders is critical in moving towards the new era of digital healthcare.”

There has been a 44 percent increase in the number of partnership deal meetings between 2010 and 2015, Hogan Lovell says, showing that the industry may be moving in the right direction.

Additionally, 53 percent of healthcare experts believe that they must forge digital health partnerships to properly leverage emerging technologies, such as cloud-based tools.

As healthcare entrepreneurs continue to develop new digital technologies, and increasing amount of healthcare will be delivered via the cloud and remote patient monitoring devices, the paper’s authors say.

Using remote monitors, such as Bluetooth blood pressure cuffs or glucometers, providers will be able to transition their care outside of the hospital.

“Essentially, we are moving away from inpatient care and more towards outpatient care,” the whitepaper says.

This potential shift to outpatient, remote care may change the entire network of digital health, helping to put the patient front and center. This shift may also help close socioeconomic care gaps.

“As the cost of devices decreases and the number of cellular smart phones increases, infrastructures around mobile communication can make even the most vulnerable and disconnected patients leaders in their own health and care,” the report explains.

Although the burgeoning mHealth market may be promising for patient care, it still faces certain regulatory hurdles. Because the market is growing rapidly, a majority of products are not tested and approved by governmental organizations.  

“For digital medicine to unleash its full potential and explore unparalleled innovation, a regulatory framework must be in place,” Hogan Lovell says. “Yet this has been exceptionally difficult in recent years due to the speed at which technology has advanced, and the differences in diseases and treatments.”

Many mHealth devices are not FDA regulated, and according to industry experts the agency has been dragging its feet to create viable IT policies. For its part, the FTC has created some consumer protection standards with these devices.

Other mHealth devices fall into the patient-facing category and would likely not provide viable patient-generated health data, further evidence of a lacking standards process.

mHealth and security present further complications, the whitepaper asserts, because it is unclear which developers do and do not need to comply with the law.

Despite all of these issues, however, the paper emphasizes the promise digital health has for improving patient care.

“These products, devices, technologies and innovations will prove to have immeasurable improvements for health and wellness across populations,” the paper concluded. “Digital medicine will also pose new solutions in health system workflows and administration that decrease costs and democratize health information.”

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