Five Ways in Which mHealth is like the Senior Prom

I thought I would write a fun piece on a lovely Friday afternoon. While my children are now grown, I had the experience of seeing all three off to the senior prom when their times came. It is prom time now and on this unusually warm sunny day I was thinking of how mHealth is a bit like the prom.
1. They are seminal events
There is probably nothing more important in a typical high school senior’s life (besides the reception of a college acceptance letter) than the prom. It is a social event unlike any other. The memories are seared into one’s mind forever. It is a coming out party for the non-debutant, a big date for the shy boy, a chance to connect with a heretofore secret admirer. Mobile health will be a game changer for healthcare. It will change the way in which patients think about themselves; No longer a passive player, but the place from which information flows. Its coming out needs to be just as orchestrated, with quality deliverables and all plans made. The chaperones need to be there (payers, providers).
2. They are sometimes more about the pomp than circumstances
The pageantry of the prom is legend. The decorations, costumes, publicity, flowers, and limousines are characteristic. There are prom committees and meetings. Boys and girls expect all night parties, the romantic kissing, the practical jokes, and the king and queen dance hoopla. Famous movies like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Carrie’, and ‘American Graffiti’ have featured the prom. Mobile health has many symposia and conferences, all with their own exuberant proclamation of unique importance. However, many times in both instances, there is a letdown after the party is over. Things were not quite as special as anticipated.

3. They are filled with joyous anticipation and disappointment
The prom is a fun event. There is the celebration of the approaching graduation, the party atmosphere, and the joy of signaling the entry to adulthood. These emotions are tempered with the sadness of dear friends going their own ways, the child without a date, and the occasional couple breakup. The unbridled enthusiasm and innocence embracing the idea to improve healthcare and decrease costs, the mantra of mHealth startups, is contrasted with eventual realities of disappointing interactions with potential investors, regulatory and reimbursement issues, and finding out that someone is doing it more successfully.
4. Being sexy isn’t always the most important thing
The prettiest girl isn’t always the happiest at the prom. She may realize that her snobby attitude has resulted in few true friends when she looks around at others at the prom. The popular football player who didn’t get a collegiate scholarship is scrambling to get a job. There are many mHealth technologies which will make a difference in the lives of millions. There are the Tricorder X Prize, IBM’s Watson, and others which get a lot of publicity in the technology press. However, it is the projects like West Wireless’ small cell architecture, government initiatives like Text4Baby, and patient portals which impact care in ways which are just as if not more important.
5. The destination is important, not the transportation
How one gets to the prom is hardly as important as attending it. Not all can afford a limousine. But it’s the dedication of a parent who takes the pleasure in driving a child in an old car and has the understanding to perhaps let them out a block away to avoid scrutiny which makes the experience just as successful. The focus of an mHealth should be on reaching a goal borne out of a desire to fill a specific need in the healthcare marketplace, not making money in a sector which is rising hugely in popularity. We have seen misguided and purely profit-driven companies fail and taint the EHR industry. The offering of a quality product which will fill the need and connect with other technologies is the key to success. The bump-filled ride is not an important factor as much as the focus of making an impact on real people.

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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