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6 Steps to mHealth Success

I wanted to take some time this week to explain the story behind the mHealth planning methodology I launched this week called ‘6 Steps to mHealth Success’. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, much of it asking for more detail, so I thought it would be worth explaining a little about why I decided to create this, and what each of the steps are about.

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The key stages of the ‘6 Steps to mHealth Success’ method

Why do we need ‘6 Steps to mHealth success’?

I’ve spent a lot of time working in this space and had the sharp-end experience of working on many projects in different parts of the world. As I see it, the mHealth arena is currently characterised by:

  1. On the supply side, thousands of technology companies, large and small, vying to establish themselves with sustainable revenues. There has been no shortage of backers so far but investors are starting to question when the real return will materialise
  2. On the demand side, we have a large number of potential mHealth users, across payers, providers, patient groups and pharma companies, but in general they are unclear and uncomfortable with the benefits of mHealth and where it really fits in.  Instead they just see an ocean of gadgets and apps and feel over-whelmed.

Given this inefficient, immature market it was clear to me that all stakeholders would benefit from a structured, formal methodology to guide them through their choices in a more logical manner, to move away from this ‘technology looking for a problem’ scenario.  That’s why I codified all my experience and insight into this toolset, which I believe is universally applicable in planning mHealth projects, across all application areas and geographies.

What are the ‘6 Steps to mHealth Success’?

The ‘6 Steps’ are intended to provide a rational, top-down approach:

  1. Identify a viable opportunity – is there a real problem or compelling event to address?  How much would an mHealth solution support a patient or HCP in the ‘job they are trying to do’ (in the words of Clay Christensen). For example there’s no point measuring someone’s weight if their real problem is simply getting their medicines delivered on time.
  2. Identify all stakeholders and benefits for each of them – probably the most important step of the process. Can we identify all stakeholders and users, not just the obvious ones like HCP or patient – what about pharmacists, carers, payers?  More importantly do they all win with our solution – because if any one of them loses, they will certainly discontinue use and your project will fail.
  3. Build a sustainable business model – too many mHealth projects have kicked off as pilots with a limited amount of funding, in the naïve hope that the pilot will inevitably bring in further funding. Sustainability and funding needs to be planned in from day one – and if you can’t identify someone who would fund the service in the long term, then it probably isn’t worth building.
  4. Design for success – there are so many options for the functionality that you could insert into an mHealth service, such as monitoring, adherence, patient support, education, behavioural change, gamification, connected devices – but which are the right ones to support your users in their objectives?  Equally if you can’t make the user experience really simple then you will fail. I’ve never seen an mHealth project fail because it was too easy to use, but the reverse is certainly true.
  5. Acquire/build/deliver – only when you know the answers to the previous steps should you start to consider technology solutions to support your project, and most importantly whether to build in-house (advantages of control) versus acquire an external solution (advantages of speed). The commonest mistake I see in mHealth is that sponsors dive in at this step, prompted by seeing some hot new technology, without having gone through the rigour of the pre-requisite steps.
  6. Measure and improve – assuming you’re serious about building a sustainable service with a long lifespan, you need to future-proof your project.  What measures do I need to gather to deliver ongoing evidence that this is working, and how will I use that evidence to refine my service over time?  Too often I see sponsors deliver a project then scramble later to gather some evidence – build those hooks in from the outset and you make life a lot easier.

What makes ‘6 Steps to mHealth Success’ different?

I really believe that this is more than another project planning tool, here’s why I think it’s particularly optimised for mHealth projects:

–       It’s very efficient in getting to the answers far faster and cheaper than the typical ‘let’s pilot some new technology’ approach

–       It brings all the stakeholders together early in the process, so you get buy-in and something that’s truly fit for purpose

–       It embeds many man years of learning from my own work and that of others, to give a predictable chance of success

–       It requires no technical or pre-requisite knowledge to get going

I hope that helps explain my thinking – now I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you like, you can download an overview of ‘6 Steps to mHealth Success’ here or feel free to contact me.

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