Tapping our way to better health: how CIOs can leverage mobile technologies to improve health care

Aloha McBrideAloha McBride, Principal, Federal Health Advisory Services Practice, EY looks at how CIOs can use technology to transform the health and lives of diverse populations

In a world where everything is available at our fingertips, it isn’t surprising that health care is too. People are swiping screens and pressing buttons to get fitter, improve diagnosis and treatment, provide better pre-natal care and even to control epidemics. With simple apps and wearable devices that support real-time health analysis on the go, mobile health (mHealth) is here to stay.

Consumer technology players, non-profit organizations and governments all over the world are turning to mHealth to develop innovative solutions that help improve the wellbeing and lives of people and communities. In nascent economies, mHealth is being used to drive community health initiatives. In Africa, for example, SMS-based data collection and analytics are used to increase the accuracy of the data submitted by health workers.

In emerging markets, mHealth is used to drive awareness campaigns, improve diagnosis accuracy and treatment adherence, better manage patient data, monitor and improve health worker performance, increase access to health care services and facilitate data sharing to harmonize public and private programs.

The application of mHealth in mature markets is more elevated and streamlined. Advanced digital technologies such as social networking, mobile applications and wearable devices serve as vehicles for consumers to generate, share and monitor vital health information — improving health management and awareness. Companies such as Jawbone®, for example, have developed wristbands that monitor vital health stats that can be viewed from your wrist and recorded to your mobile devices. Dashboards created out of past and real-time medical data are used to motivate consumers to watch their health more closely.

How can CIOs lead the way?
Understanding these trends and the tremendous strides in the accessibility and quality of mobile health data can help us develop solutions that meet the needs of diverse populations. For example, in the health care system, there are a huge number of technologies used by clinicians and patients. The CIO must continuously analyze which devices are being used and for what, and how to simplify the computing and communications environment over the long term. The goal of a CIO in a health care delivery system is to structure a framework so that the technology takes a back seat to the clinicians focusing on patients and health outcomes.

Furthermore, to adapt to and thrive in this new environment, CIOs must strive to utilize the broad potential of the available mobile technologies. Depending on their companies’ industry and goals, they need to bring together mHealth implementers, open-source providers and funders to develop innovative solutions for a range of health service areas.

CIOs should also be responsible for overseeing the functional requirement specifications for mHealth frameworks, the development of systems for multistakeholder collaboration, user testing and the definition of data quality standards. Security and privacy of the health data transmitted or stored in mobile devices continue to be an area of concern for the CIO. Quality of implementation, service delivery and compliance with standard operating procedures are areas CIOs would be expected to monitor.

mHealth presents unlimited opportunities for governments, technology players, and insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Advancements in technology would, no doubt, enable companies to provide more innovative services going forward. However, success, in the end, would depend on how well the CIO can ensure technological innovation and stamina, and whether they can convince relevant stakeholders to invest in the right technology.


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