There's a saying "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." But that's not actually true, as you can make a horse drink when necessary. It just takes some extra effort and strategy. As FierceMobileHealthcare has reported, the Federal Communications Commission took a huge step in pushing text-to-911 forward with new rules mandating that all wireless carriers and certain texting applications support the emergency texting functionality by the end of this year.
Privacy is a huge concern in mobile healthcare, which makes protecting consumer data and providing consumers control over data something everyone--from the federal agency level to mHealth app and device makers--cares about. It's not surprising, then, that a U.S. senator brought the issue into the media spotlight, calling on the Federal Trade Commission to stop device makers from allegedly selling data and enacting an "opt out" for consumers. What's not good, however, is that Schumer put the focus on Fitbit, one of the veteran fitness tracker manufacturers, saying the company was selling its user data when it was not.
Last week in this spot, I posed a question about creating a mobile health administration to regulate and handle oversight of mHealth technology, from apps to devices. Such a federal agency, I surmised, could replace what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission and other regulatory organizations are doing in determining what should be regulated and what shouldn't be regulated. I pitched the question, figuring that given all the manhours and years already spent trying to decipher where and how mobile tech fits into the FDA and other agencies' purviews, maybe starting from scratch would be the best option.
But I stand corrected given some excellent feedback.
There's been intense effort over the past several years to try to determine the best regulatory approach when it comes to mHealth technology. Thousands of hours have been spent in meetings, conferences, hearings and conversations, all in a quest to figure out how best to protect patients, foster innovation among developers and creators, and not hurt a burgeoning industry that could potentially be greater than the PC revolution.
Much of it has been focused on figuring out how to wedge mHealth tools into regulatory parameters already in place within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, and dozens of other federal and state agencies tasked with making sure what's in the market doesn't hurt the consumer, protecting data privacy and securing information.
But what if we stopped trying to wedge and just started from scratch in crafting a regulatory body specifically for mHealth?
Apple and IBM are forging a global strategic partnership to transform business using mobile technology. A big chunk of that strategy is aimed at the healthcare sector, specifically the mobile healthcare segment.
One of the most critical aspects to mobile healthcare technology is consumer adoption and patients embracing all the emerging tools and devices. And one key to adoption is ease of use, whether it's a fitness band, a smartphone, a body fluid monitoring device or something more intricate, such as Google Glass. Ease of use is not so simple to attain, however, and it reflects the third missing puzzle piece in the mHealth innovation landscape.
There has been little mention of device makers, app developers or mHealth services surveying consumers, polling patients and asking medical professionals about what specific products are wanted and needed, and what features should be a primary focus in wearable mHealth devices.
It's nice to see the FDA finally catch up with how consumers and patients are sharing information online, especially since medical device manufacturers, pharma companies and other healthcare professionals are are doing the exact same thing.
In the past month, the top players in smartphone industry have made big moves into the mHealth device market. Apple debuted its HealthKit, which will foster data sharing across mHealth applications as well as healthcare institutions. Samsung announced a digital health initiative using open hardware and software platforms for mHealth technology advancement and innovation. And Google, whose Glass computing eyewear is already being used in healthcare setting, has been described as potentially being the "best positioned of the three to build a consumer friendly data management platform."
A new report from Rock Health on the wearables product industry and market outlook doesn't sugar coat what lies ahead for devices promising to help users manage their health and health issues. In particular, the report offers up one startling statistic: Users discard fitness bands and other wearable health devices, including smart watches, just after 15 months of use.
Given all the media hype and vendor activity, one could easily get the impression that wearable devices are flying off the shelves and consumers are clamoring for better options.