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Mind the (telehealth) Gap

For my blog this week I want to re-visit a topic I’ve called ‘the biggest barrier of all in mHealth adoption’ – that of communication. I was prompted to do this by a new survey this week from the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board which found that more than 90% of people in the UK do not know what telehealth and telecare is.

Firstly let’s not worry about the terminology and the fact that this survey framed its questions around telehealth and telecare – as I said in another blog (‘What’s in a name?’) the name doesn’t matter. What does matter is that so many people outside the mHealth/telehealth aficionados simply don’t understand what this stuff is.

This latest survey simply reinforces what we heard late last year in the YouGov survey of 2,000 adults for Pinsent Masons the main finding being that 73% of the population didn’t understand the term ‘mHealth’ at all, and even when explained to them, 90% stated they never used mHealth services.

So we know what the problem is, what do we do?

I think we can take it as read now that this lack of understanding is the biggest blocker to the widespread adoption of mHealth. Whenever I attend a conference or event, I draw the audience’s attention to this challenge, we all nod sagely but what are we doing about it?

If anything we may be going backwards in our efforts to disseminate quality information – I also received an email this week telling me the mHealth Alliance will be winding down its activities. In case you don’t know, the mHealth Alliance was a foundation set up by the UN Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Vodafone Foundation to gather best practice on mHealth deployment from around the world. They feel that the baton has been picked up and there are other initiatives running which will do their work, but personally I don’t feel we have finished the job at all – we’ve only just started.

I think there’s a massive opportunity here for a translational programme, perhaps facilitated by PR and communications specialists, who really know how to create human messages. We need to give mHealth a human face, tell some stories so that we move out of the realm of minority interest into the mainstream. Instead of dwelling in our cosy LinkedIn groups and Twitter circles we should be bombarding the mainstream media with interesting real-life stories on how we can make a difference.

Anyway, that’s my rant over for today, but the problem hasn’t gone away. If any enterprising PR or marketing agencies out there want to talk to me about the opportunity then please feel free to get in touch.

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