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Silver Bullets, Empty Innovation and Other Must Stop Behaviors in Mobile Health

As we close out another year, many of us will soon turn our focus to the age-old practice of New Year’s Resolutions. We thought now would be the perfect time to offer up suggestions we have for the broader mobile health marketplace. If we as an industry could commit to these resolutions, mobile might just succeed at making the world a better, and healthier, place to live.

You see, mobile health technology is at a critical crossroads. Our industry can play an invaluable role in making intelligent connections between consumers with their healthcare, or we can make things even worse than they were before. It’s important to understand that mobile is both capable of solving our problems AND exacerbating them. Too frequently, we have seen more disconnect and less harmony within the healthcare space because of mobile innovations that have not been thoughtful. So, as an industry, it’s time to put a stop to a handful of troubling trends that are getting in the way of true progress. Here’s your New Year’s “Not to Do” list for mobile health:

Narrow Design
Some of the biggest challenges in healthcare can be addressed with mobile technology. But you don’t get there by building solutions that only work for Silicon Valley employers. That’s the temptation, though. When we think mobile, the user we imagine is a tech-savvy, middle to upper class millennial. Too many solutions are designed with this sliver of the population in mind, while neglecting the specific needs of the at-risk and underserved, including those on Medicare and Medicaid. But these vulnerable populations are where we have the biggest opportunities for impact. And they are frequent users of mobile devices, sometimes even more dependent upon smartphones than other demographic groups.

Bells and Whistles
We need to stop getting distracted by bells and whistles, by cool technology and instead focus on building things that work. We need to quit throwing functionality into our apps just for the sake of chasing trends. An effective mobile solution might require advanced gamification. It might require robust social networking capabilities. And it might not.

In our research at Wildflower Health, female app users were more interested in saving time and getting personalized responses to their questions than they were accessing social networks or earning rewards. Recent research validates this truth. When asked what they valued in digital health tools, consumers heavily lean toward the simplest tools, with the vast majority prioritizing easier and more convenient interactions with the healthcare system.

Empty Innovation
To take that a step further, we have to stop with empty innovation. Too many apps and other mobile solutions are being launched just for the sake of exploiting the fragmented market.

Speaking at the Echo Health Ventures’ 2018 CEO Summit, Andy Slavitt told attendees that if they really want to make a dent on healthcare cost and meaningfully improve quality, they have to focus on the biggest areas of need. Slavitt, who is the former acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare, made his point succinctly and effectively when he said, “What we really don’t need is another Fitbit.”

Silver Bullets
We need to stop creating things that don’t integrate or connect. We have more than enough standalone solutions. There are thousands of free-floating commercial applications littering the app store. Few of these have any real ability to link back to the healthcare system in a meaningful way. The idea that any one solution is a silver bullet and can solve all that ails healthcare with no assistance is quite absurd when you think about it.

We don’t need more isolation and disconnect. There are plenty of siloes in existence already. One of our greatest needs in healthcare is a better connection. The only solutions that make things better are the ones that foster integration and that can simplify the healthcare process for consumers so they get what they need when they need it.

What Do We Do About It?

So, that’s a great summary of what “not to do.” Where does that leave us? The promise of mobile technology to bridge gaps, forge connections and drive healthier outcomes is extremely potent. But where does mobile health need to go from here in order to live up to the hype?

We’re glad you asked. Click here to download our latest eBook – Losing Touch: How to Reconnect with Today’s Mobile Healthcare Consumer. In this eBook we share our insights on what consumers really want from mobile and how you can give it to them.