Mobile health: policy and regulation for intelligent healthcare

PA and GSMA have developed a report that examines the policy and regulatory touchpoints that are affecting the adoption of mobile health, highlighting the key areas to be addressed to enable mobile health services to make this positive contribution to healthcare globally.

Mobile health services have the potential to make a positive contribution to healthcare across the globe. This report from PA Consulting Group and GSMA examines the policy and regulatory touch-points affecting the adoption of mobile health and highlights the key areas that must be addressed to enable mobile health services to fulfil their potential.

To request a copy of the mobile health report, please complete your details.

New healthcare opportunities from mobile technology

As healthcare systems around the world tackle the challenges of rising demand and expectations, mobile communications are opening up new possibilities for improving access to healthcare, freeing time from administration for clinicians to spend on care, and engaging people in their own health and wellness.

There is growing evidence from around the world that mobile solutions can improve both the quality and the cost-effectiveness of healthcare. However, significant policy-related and regulatory barriers must be overcome before mobile health solutions can fulfil their promise.

Developing supportive healthcare and reimbursement policies

Consumer-focused as it is, mobile communications technology is ideal for empowering patients to manage their wellbeing and health. Effective use of mobile health enables a shift from a ‘curative’ healthcare model to one in which the patient is an active partner in care, consenting to the risks of treatment, making choices and increasingly taking responsibility for their own health. To realise this potential, supportive healthcare policies are required that enable this move towards increased consumer autonomy.

This needs to be backed by reimbursement policies that promote healthy outcomes. Reimbursement provides one of the most effective mechanisms for driving behaviours in healthcare, particularly in the heavily regulated healthcare markets found in more developed economies. At present, most healthcare payment models incentivise work done based on a model where care is provided in isolated encounters. For mobile health to come to fruition, reimbursement incentives need to consider consumers managing their health on an ongoing basis, providing incentives based on outcomes achieved.

Balancing healthcare and communications regulation

In terms of the regulation of mobile health, the main challenge lies in finding the right balance between very different regulatory motivations and resulting dynamics of the communications and healthcare industries. Medical approaches to regulation result in closed, integrated solutions where the provider has control of the architecture. To support innovation and serve a mass consumer market, mobile health needs the sort of common standards and interoperable approaches that allowed the telecommunication industry to thrive.

There is also uncertainty about what constitutes a medical device, and particularly about where the boundary should be drawn between a device and the communications infrastructure it uses: when might this include a handset and how are ‘apps’ to be treated.

The solution can be found in adopting a modular approach to medical devices that regulates a specialised mobile health device or application differently from the mobile network to which it is attached. Clear interfaces based on common standards are a key part of this solution.

This must be accompanied by a shift from pre-market assurance to in-service risk management of the end-to-end solutions. In the longer term, governments need to work with both mobile communications and healthcare sectors to create an environment that supports innovative mobile health solutions by rewarding positive health outcomes and providing regulatory controls that are proportionate to the risks.

PA's George MacGinnis and Frazer Bennett are the contact points for the PA and GSMA mobile health report.

To request a copy of the mobile health report, please complete your details.

To discuss mobile health strategies, contact us now.

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