Adopting mobile health technology calls for a (worthwhile) cultural shift: Written by Puneet Seth on May 1, 2014 for CanadianHealthcareNetwork.ca
May 6, 2014

Leaders from industry, academia and government met recently not only to identify the greatest opportunities for mobile health technology (mHealth) application in Canada, but also to hone in on the largest barriers to its adoption by both healthcare providers and patients.

At the CATA Mobile Health Roundtable meeting, held April 29, I had the privilege of co-facilitating the discussion about driving adoption of mHealth alongside Fraser Edward, business development director for Telus Health. CATA, or the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, is the largest high-tech association in Canada, linking businesses with opportunities in a multitude of different technology sectors.

Concerns surrounding privacy and security of information were mentioned several times. However, it was unanimously agreed that these issues are not as much “barriers” as they are issues that need to be addressed systemically. Established national and provincial standards already exist that dictate the requirements and protocols that such technologies need to have in place. It is more of a matter of ensuring that vendors and technologies comply, and that the healthcare community is educated about these standards.

Privacy aside, the cultural change that goes with adopting mHealth technology into the workflow of clinical practice was another barrier discussed. We physicians are accustomed to the idea of safety and good patient outcomes resulting from rigour and consistency in our practices. Changing the very style by which we practise can be very intimidating and can lead to apprehension (perhaps rightfully so). mHealth does just that, and it is inherently quite different from simply adding a new medication to our roster.

Ideas suggested to help in cultural transition included scaling successful case uses, and shining a light on our colleagues who are doing so. Perhaps there is the need to have formalized “mHealth clinician representatives” to carry out this task at a regional level.

“We believe that better quality care can be delivered in a more efficient manner through the intelligent use of mobile technologies; resulting in better patient outcomes for Canadians,” said David Farnes, a seasoned mobile health technology consultant and a driver of mHealth technologies in Canada who leads CATA’s mHealth division.

Several other points were raised, including how the costs of mHealth will be dealt with (i.e., who will pay), what sort of certification process should there be, if at all, for mHealth, and how communication between all these technologies will take place.

The roundtable certainly marks a step in the right direction, and the consensus was that this event should be held again in the near future, with a more specific agenda and presence of additional stakeholders in mHealth.

“We need to understand the uptake of mobile health in Canada, quantify the return on mobile health investments (in terms of quality of care and cost savings) and leverage this information to scale adoption,” said Farnes.

It is important that the medical community be strongly engaged in the evolution of mHealth and its implementation. I welcome your thoughts and discussion.

More information about CATA’s mobile health initiative and the roundtable can be found on the CATA site:
http://www.cata.ca/Communities/MHAB/.

In addition, Canada Health Infoway is an essential resource to obtain information on mHealth as well as other health information technologies, such as funding incentives, white papers and future events.

Puneet Seth is a hospitalist in Southern Ontario and leads the Ontario division of InputHealth, a software company that mobilizes physician practices with iPad-driven patient questionnaires.