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mHealth needs story-tellers

mhealth human storyThis week I’ve been thinking hard about how we can make mHealth relevant in the real world. I was prompted by two quite different news items that I saw that felt like obvious calls to action:

Missing words

In both cases I was reading the articles and screaming inwardly, “but mHealth could help to tackle this!” I was puzzled why it wasn’t referenced specifically in the articles as a possible strategy – which got me thinking, “why isn’t mHealth the obvious answer with many of the challenges we’re facing in long-term care?”

I think it’s because we haven’t created those human stories directly enough. So instead of explaining how low-cost assistive living technology can help to support older people to stay in their own home we talk about ‘dispersed alarm units’, ‘pendant alarms’ and ‘fall sensors’. Do you honestly think language like this is going to make a senior consumer think “I must spend my money on these strange things, as opposed to that nice cruise I was thinking of”?

In the case of diabetes, it’s more fundamental – we keep offering incomplete tools that address a small piece of the puzzle – for instance an app to track my blood sugar, or a connected blood pressure monitor, that don’t talk to each other and don’t really offer value to the people around me, whether clinicians, carers or peers. As far as I can see, no one has put the whole puzzle together with connected devices, software and coaching services that support me on behaviour, diagnostics and medication across all the co-morbidities to really tame the beast. This is crazy, as separately the mHealth solutions do exist – we just haven’t pulled the story together.

People buy benefits

I’ve written before about the communication gap in mHealth and the need to translate our technical understanding into a human story. I’ve also written about where we are in the hype cycle, in the belief that mHealth was finally rising up the ‘slope of enlightenment’. If we don’t start telling human stories that focus on benefits and create emotional engagement, we’ll be stuck in the trough for ever. There’s an old saying amongst salesmen – ‘people buy benefits’. It’s just as true for mHealth as anything else.

So if you see any great examples of real world mHealth stories I’d love to hear from you – or you can always contact me.

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