mHealth needs interoperability: experts

John C. Tanner
19 Nov 2010

Mobile health apps and services won’t take off without the involvement of various players from healthcare and insurance companies to governments and the patients themselves, experts said Thursday.

The concept of the handset as a health diagnostic tool is closer to reality than ever as the healthcare sector itself undergoes a major shift from being hospital-centric to patient-centric, said Ursula Oesterle, VP of innovation at Swisscom.

“The focus is shifting from episodic diagnosis and treatment at a hospital to continuous self-diagnostic healthcare focused on wellness, lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking, and prevention,” she told an mHealth panel session at Mobile Asia Congress in Hong Kong Thursday.

“We’re also seeing more user-led innovation via social networks, and distributed information where you can look up health information on the web.”

Clive Smith, director of global operations for the Mobile Health Alliance, agreed, adding that lack of interoperability was a major barrier for mHealth uptake, be it between different healthcare systems between hospitals and government departments, or even between individual apps.

“There are 9,000 health apps available today, but hardly any of them talk to each other or share data,” he said.

An additional challenge is the tendency of the mobile and healthcare industries seeing one another as one part of their own ecosystem, but understanding very little about how the other ecosystem works, he added.

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