Matthew Holt

Where is there mHealth, really?

Health 2.0 aficionados will know that I’ve been railing against the term “mobile health” or “mHealth” for about three years. Health 2.0 is simply the next thing in health technology, and will remain so (whatever that might be). Sure we have a definition, but it’s about what’s happening not how it happens. Calling something mHealth traps it to a device, in particular a cell phone, and ignores the rest of the ecosystem of the technology and culture that the cell phone is but one part of–that’s the concept we call “unplatforms.” mHealth is like talking about cooking in the kitchen and only talking about the fridge. It’s damn important but you need a stove, a sink and more to make it all work.So if you have a mHealth strategy, as Susannah Fox might quote LOLcats, “URDoin it Rong”.

However, the place where it makes sense to talk abut mHealth is where there are only cell phones, and that place is large tranches of the rural developing world. This came up for me twice yesterday. once in a long chat with DataDyne‘s Joel Selanikio who has a really cool product called EpiSurveyor that works not via SMS but via an app on simple phones and enables very cheap and easy data collection. The other was in a high profile announcement by Johnson & Johnson (a major funder of text4baby btw), which via its Babycenter subsidiary is introducing–with USAID, State Department & the mHealth Alliance– $10m program supporting the use of cell phones for maternal health in developing countries.

So for the health worker in the rural Bangladeshi village, lets have an mHealth strategy. For those of us in the developed world, we need an overall strategy to deal with data and applications–whatever devices they are using.

4 replies »

  1. Different Tim. The reference wasn’t O’Reilly – it was Berners-Lee who envisioned the semantic web back in 1999.

    Strictly from a software development point of view – the new reality is to develop for mobile first – web/desktop second. That’s a big shift – both in terms of strategy and tactic.

  2. I agree w/ Matthew. I would suggest that good strategy needs to have sub-strategies or tactics and mhealth could be viewed as such and really feels more like a critical component of the HOW and not the WHAT. Otherwise you fall in to the danger of siloed & non-integrated approaches which will not optimize care coordination…

  3. Dan–that 1.0, 2.0. 3.0, 4.0 was dream up by my then intern Jen McCabe (now famous for being on Twitter all the time and iMoveYou)…she was soundly spanked for it 🙂

    There is no 3.0. Tim O’Reilly called the evolution of his idea Websquared, but we think that Health 2.0 is just the next thing whatever it is, and you’ll note that Tim just keeps his conference with the same name even thought the topic has markedly changed.

    My objection to mHealth is not the name–(well it is) but it’s the supposition that the mobile nature of the device should be a separate type of delivery and strategy–when instead we need (and are slowly getting) a connected and contextual information and transaction ecosystem for health care.

  4. Sorry Matthew but … IMHO … I think mHealth actually does work – for a segment of the tech industry that has just exploded (across every vertical – finally including health). For “personal computing,” iPad usage (37%) is greater than both desktops (21%) and laptops (27%). Smartphones are the laggard’s (15%), but combined with iPad’s these mobile devices now account for 52% of “personal computing.”

    Google activates about 400,000 new Android-based devices – per day – and that number is doubling every 9mos. They also estimate that there are 100M Android-based devices that have been activated since its launch (September 2008). No slight here on iOS or Windows or RIM – it’s just news out of Google I/O this week that’s kind of eye-popping. We’re definitely seeing the fastest adoption rate of any technology in our lifetime. There are now over 5 billion cell phones on planet earth.

    I recently suggested (blog post with @Navinet and @westr : ) that mHealth should logically replace Telehealth and Telemedicine too (one-ringy-dingy anyone?). Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC, 4G, 5G – the days of wired lines, telephony, telegraph (telecopier – ugh) and really most things “tele” just don’t seem to represent the future adequately or accurately – for any industry. When I can get it – my 4G connection is faster than my wired “broadband” connection at home.

    Along those same lines – I humbly submit that Health 2.0 works well – right up until Health 3.0 and Health 4.0 – at which point it really does begin to look and sound a bit dated – no? I don’t know the original intent – but the application of n.n (both Web and Health) is really an extension of software versioning which started long before the interwebs (e.g.: I know versioning started before Windows 1.0 – but that was released in November, 1985).

    I also don’t know if Health 3.0 will gain any traction (let alone 4.0), but there’s at least one fairly detailed description of Health 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 – which seems to have sprung up (in of all places) at the Health 2.0 Unconference NL in Amsterdam (circa 2008).

    My assumption has always been (perhaps incorrectly?) that Health 2.0 was coined from Web 2.0. As the Web itself moves to 3.0 (a component of Tim Berners-Lee “Semantic Web” vision from 1999), and other names begin to take hold (mHealth to replace Telehealth/Telemedicine … maybe/hopefully?), perhaps this is a good time to consider a new moniker for being “simply the next thing in health technology.”

    In the spirit of Health 2.0’s history – and in recognition of its evolving future (not to mention global interest and participation), maybe this could be a crowdsourced activity (with token prize) to be revealed (and awarded) at the annual conference this fall? Would gHealth work? It definitely trumps mHealth alphabetically 😉 Health 2.0 has and does work really well today – but is it truly representative of the future – and isn’t that the larger issue? For an industry that’s often mired in the past – maybe a periodic refresh is just healthy ? 😉

    Tele = a prefix that means “at a distant”