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Mobile Medical Devices Need 'Incredible Simplicity'

A recent op-ed in the New York Times argues that mhealth hasn't lived up to its promise.

An opinion piece by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Tina Rosenberg in the New York Times this week calls to task mobile medical devices. The potential of mhealth technology to improve health for users around the world, she argues, is not being met.

"The delivery system is there. But we don't know yet what to deliver," Rosenberg writes.

Most mobile medical devices, which include apps and smartphone peripherals, are evaluated for use rather than their effect on health, and successes in the realm of mhealth have been few and far between, according to the piece. Factors holding mobile medical devices back from broader adoption include incompatible operating systems, limited capacity for users, and cost

So what would it take to make mobile medical devices take off?

"Incredible simplicity," Erica Kochi, coleader of tech innovation for Unicef, told Rosenberg.

Unicef has partnered with the WHO on Project Mwana, a program that trains healthcare workers in rural Zambia to text caregivers when babies are born with HIV, which Rosenberg cites as a rare mhealth success story. Mwana works, Kochi says because it makes healthcare workers' jobs easier. The process of transmitting the results, which used to take weeks, has been cut in half, according to the piece. 

What else will it take to drive mhealth adoption? Government incentives? Insurer and/or physician buy-in? Let us know in the comments. 

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Jamie Hartford is the managing editor of MD+DI.
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