Five Pathways to mHealth Education

1.    Points of Contact.  The most effective ways to educate patients about wellness and health is during a face to face encounter.  It applies to mHealth as well. They have your (the provider’s) attention and vice versa (this is not to be taken lightly in the era of the multitasker). Questions from both parties should be encouraged as part of the education and engagement process.  Introducing a technology as a tool either for general wellness or to diagnose or monitor a specific condition.  Patient adherence will increase with targeted technologies; with emphasis on personalized care and incentives discussed (these may be in the form of gaming incentives, other incentives provided by the technology company, or motivational health incentives).  The point of contact may be an emergency room, office visit, pharmacy visit, or insurance enrollment.

 2. Celebrities.  Never underestimate the power of celebrities.  They have increased awareness of diagnosis and treatment of breast and prostate cancers, mental health disorders, diabetes, obesity and other health issues. They get the attention of star-struck legislators and public health officials. Campaigns to increase patients’ engagement in their health in general would serve as an excellent preamble to awareness of mHealth technologies. I would put stories about mHealth on news channels in this category. 

3. Telecom and other large commercial entities. These companies are fast becoming both developers and providers of mHealth technologies.  The vast amount of people they affect alone is reason to advocate that they provide for substantial education in general about mHealth, and that not limited to their proprietary products. If the market grows in general, all these companies will benefit (rising tide floats all boats)

4. Schools. Education about consumer and patient engagement and generalities about mHealth (concepts of EHRs, patient portals, smartphone-based tools, remote monitoring technologies, telehealth, and others) should be taught as part of health classes at all levels with increasing degrees of involvement.  Role-playing, mHealth mock-up technologies via PCs or even telecom-company donated simple wireless devices would be very useful in having whole generations of people brought up thinking of mHealth as an integral part of healthcare.

5. Payers. Although many mHealth tools are not going to be offered to the patient directly from payers, some will be.  The patient has a relationship with the payer. This affords an opportunity of health coaches or others employed by payers to educate patients about the existence and merits of mHealth.  mHealth technology companies as well as providers can partner with payers in providing education, with the information coming across on both ends, being agnostic to the patient.

The running theme here is that the best education will come from people that the consumer/patient has established relationships with. Celebrities have the attention of all of us, and they are the exception.  Education is where the tire meets the road for the first time when talking about mHealth adoption.

About davidleescher

David Lee Scher, MD is Founder and Director at DLS HEALTHCARE CONSULTING, LLC, which specializes in advising digital health technology companies, their partners, investors, and clients. As a cardiac electrophysiologist and pioneer adopter of remote patient monitoring, he understood early on the challenges that the culture and landscape of healthcare present to the development and adoption of digital technologies. He is a well-respected thought leader in mobile and other digital health technologies. Scher lectures worldwide on relevant industry topics including the role of tech in Pharma, patient advocacy, standards for development and adoption, and impact on patients and healthcare systems from clinical, risk management, operational and marketing standpoints. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine.
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