Bubble and hype: the reality of health apps

This article first appeared in the November 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

The saying that “there's an app for that” has quickly become a cliché, but that doesn't mean there is not a lot of truth behind it. As health apps and fitness devices proliferate, it is timely to take a considered view of their relative worth and remember that in healthcare, it is the person, not the device, that is the lifesaver.

I love my mobile phone and take it everywhere with me. I love it so much I have a spare one in case something happens to it so I can switch my SIM card and be back online in seconds. I don’t consider myself a Luddite, and judging by the number of gadgets in my home office my wife thinks I am trying to maintain the mobile electronics industry all by myself.

I have an iPad, an Android tablet and a Windows Surface tablet, just in case one of them wins the tablet wars, as well as a notebook and two desktop computers, one a Mac and one a PC. However, I have become pretty good at recognising hype, probably because I have been burned by it so many time before.

Hype is not necessarily a bad thing. It usually correlates with passion, innovation, opportunities to make a profit and much more. However, I get a little upset about it in healthcare, because with the hype comes people who dream of their illness being cured, their suffering being lessened, their children being healthy. Those are noble goals we all should aim for, and it is heart wrenching when you see them taken away from people by hype.

mHealth is currently full of a lot of hype. That’s not to say that there are not some good mHealth things out there. There are, and I use some of them every day. But when people become so enmeshed in the hype that they have to verbally attack anyone who questions its value, I smell the bad side of hype, and I get worried.

I do believe that mHealth can play an important role in healthcare, but only when it learns to interact with the whole system. It needs to integrate not only with the technology used, but the workflow and the culture.

To read the full story, click here for the November 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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