Democratizing mHealth

Explosive growth in mHealth
Undoubtedly one of the most important industry trends to watch in 2014 is mHealth. The global mobile healthcare (mHealth) market will grow at an astounding compounded annual rate in excess of 40%. iPad Mini and Tablets are helping accelerate this growth as devices with larger form factors as they are more user friendly especially with older users (due to eye sight issues, presbyopia amongst other things).

Only those mHealth vendors, who are able to integrate these solutions in the clinical pathways will continue to experience success. Executives at health insurance companies too are increasingly open to subsidizing such solutions as it helps them lower their cost of their health plans.

Why then are healthcare software companies baulking?
Almost all established electronic health record (EHR) vendors, especially the larger ones, have grown through multiple acquisitions recently. Whilst that approach has helped them complete their portfolio of offerings, it certainly has given CIOs a major headache – that of harmonizing the technology platforms and design differences. Currently these vendors are expending their organizational bandwidth on digesting these acquisitions. Consequently such vendors are not able to invest in creating mHealth solutions as much as they should.

Profitability continues to be a key concern as mHealth has not brought home the bacon in licensure terms for them, at least as much as they would hope for. One contributing factor could be that many smartphone and tablet apps are sold for small dollars. Established software players also feel secure in their knowledge that hospitals will not steer away from them due to their leadership position in the market. I dare say that the big software providers lack the vision and courage to change – innovative mHealth applications are today coming from smaller, nimbler and more agile software companies.

Leveraging the power of HTML5
HTML5 allows users to access applications through the mobile without any need for additional code, supports the latest multimedia, is easily readable by humans, consistently understood by computers and devices.Almost all modern browsers include support for HTML5, not to mention tablets and mobile phones. Apple was one of the pioneering proponents of HTML5 which allows all iOS devices to access applications on the web without the need for any further plug-ins.

What if the entire EHR platform was HTML5 enabled?
Enabling EHR software with HTML5 front end provides this effect of “unlimiting” the mHealth rollout. Suddenly hospitals would have the complete freedom of choice, pick any application and integrate it within the clinical pathways without being at the mercy of the software vendor for deploying a mHealth application. CEOs and CIOs that I have personally spoken to indicated their preference for “anytime, anywhere” concept in deploying mHealth solutions. The key concerns then shift to performance, security and other real life issues rather than the availability of the solution.

The new architecture
As an industry, mHealth technology providers need to take cognizance of the growing cries of users for “democracy” and create all solutions with a mobile-first (“mFirst”) development approach. Sometimes, software vendors are not the most qualified people to tell physicians and care givers how and which mHealth solution they should use. Hospitals should not be at the mercy of inefficient structures that that vendors have built in their software development process. When the entire EHR software is available on a mobile-enabled platform the Hospitals can decide for themselves. HTML5 frontend is an important first step in that direction and mFirst approach is the Holy Grail.

– By Karthik Tirupathi
The author is the CEO of Napier Healthcare, a pioneering healthcare IT solutions company that has standardized on HTML5 offerings for all its present and future products.

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