Today, a Green Paper on mobile health (mHealth) will be published by the European Commission. mHealth covers all medical and public health practice that is supported by mobile devices. This document will launch a community discussion process that will continue until 2 July 2014.
Covering all practice supported by mobile devices – including tablets, smartphones, and other wireless devices mHealth also includes wellbeing and lifestyle apps that connect to sensors and other medical devices. This is an important and emergent part of eHealth where Information as well as Communication Technology is used to improve services, processes and health products.
The Commission will be looking at several issues surrounding mHealth:
- Data protection
- Patient safety
- Users trust
- Input to the delivery of healthcare of the highest quality
- The level at which this should be applied e.g. – national, regional, or EU wide.
As well as the Green Paper, European Commission direction will also be given through a Staff Working Document, to those involved in app development. This will analyse existing EU legal frameworks currently applicable that are applicable to wellbeing and to lifestyle apps.
There is no doubt that mHealth can help to tackle some of the challenges that our healthcare structure faces. And according to a report by PWC mHealth could potentially deliver €99 billion in care costs by 2017. It is a fast evolving field with the potential to improve healthcare quality and improve efficiency by offering support to professionals in healthcare and in the area of patient treatment. It will also facilitate continuity of care. Some estimates show that as much as 30% of time spent accessing or analysing information could be saved if medical professionals used mHelath-based technology. Remote monitoring facilities could help many more patients live independently supported by technological monitoring systems. Despite this potential, the uptake of mHealth, at present, remains restricted in EU countries and healthcare authorities may look for more confirming evidence before they are prepared to adopt mHealth more comprehensively.
Some criticisms have been:
- Lack of observance and transparency might make users wary of placing their trust in these apps, which may impact on market development.
- Insufficient knowledge among developers with regard to the legalities applicable to lifestyle and well-being apps.
It is hoped that the Staff Working Document being issued with the Green Paper, will raise awareness amongst app developers of the rules being imposed by the EU surrounding issues of data protection, and will assist them in determining whether the legislation is applicable to their app, or not. It will also issue consumer directives.
Some of the areas of concern have been:
- How mHealth can be aligned with national health care strategies
- Technology/Interoperability standards
- Data protection and security
- Regulation and compliance keeping pace with development
- Getting patients and HCP involved earlier during solutions
- Lack of evidence of economic or clinical benefit – (it is worth noting that before email became widespread Intel surveys showed that most people claimed not to want it.)
The era of mHealth has arrived.
At this first stage consumer friendly products link fitness to general wellbeing as seen with Jawbone/Fitbit.
Apps and mobile connected devices permeate the medical field (we have entered this stage)
Mobile, wearables & data-collection devices mesh together to provide the backbone for optimisation & customisation of preventative health, medical treatment & hospital processes.
This is new and exciting technology and the release of the Green Paper is a step to its validation. In years to come will we wonder, as we do now with email technology, how we ever managed without it?