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The biggest barrier to mHealth

mHealth faces many barriers to adoption – I’m sure you’ve all heard of issues like lack of policy, vague regulation, mis-aligned re-imbursement and incentives. They’re all valid, up to a point, but I actually think the biggest barrier right now is communication. 

mhealth communication barrier

Talking the same language?

Why do I say this? Well firstly there’s some research to support this. In December 2013 the law firm Pinsent Masons published a survey of 2,000 adults carried out by YouGov. The survey found that most of the population (73%) didn’t understand the term ‘mHealth’ at all, and even when explained to them, 90% stated they never used mHealth services, despite the plethora of health and wellness apps and devices now available. Only slightly more optimistically, 33% said they would be willing to use mHealth services to have their health monitored remotely, and 50% would be interested in mHealth applications to book appointments.  

You know what they say about statistics….

Now this survey does confound a survey conducted a year earlier, by, a leading health information website in the UK, which found that 75% of GPs were in favour of mobile apps to help patients manage chronic conditions and 84% of patients were in favour of mobile health management apps. The sample size was much larger in this case (1,400 GPs and 7,000 patients), although the data is clearly that much older. 

Why the vast difference in findings?  In neither case were the full underlying results released, so it is difficult to be sure.  However, I suspect the main reason is that the respondents are already ‘digitally motivated’, in that they are already users of a digital health resource, whereas the YouGov survey is probably a more random sample of the wider population.  My own feeling from my advisory work is that there is a dawning realization amongst the key players that there is a communication ‘gap’ around what mHealth is and the benefits it can bring.  We seem to have an enthusiastic minority (myself included) who live and breathe mHealth but we haven’t managed to make it understood in the wider population.

Lost in Translation?

So what can we do about it?  It’s certainly time to step back and try a fresh approach.  How can we simplify the language of mHealth?  How can we tell compelling stories that convey the benefits?  We need to build up easy to access evidence, and get to the mainstream media rather than occupy the fringes of Twitter and online communities. So here’s my resolution – every day I’ll try to convey mHealth in everyday language to at least one new person (and occasionally more than one).  You’ve got to start somewhere.   

As always, I’d love to hear your views, or you can always contact me.

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