In 2013 the mobile healthcare industry continued to expand at a record breaking pace with spending and investment levels hitting new highs. At the same time, 2013 saw consolidation with the announcement of some major mergers and acquisitions. Last January we highlighted our top 5 mHealth predictions of 2013. Now that we’re well into 2014, it’s time to take a look back to see how we did.
Prediction #5 – “Top-down distribution of mHealth applications.”
Many of the first wave mobile healthcare applications were released directly to consumers via the Android and iPhone marketplaces. As applications, peripheral devices, and wearables advanced last year, we began to see a shift. Healthcare providers, wellness organizations, and insurers started to push a more clinical approach to mobile healthcare. The major driver of this change was the need for quantifiable patient engagement that allows for providers and insurers to better impact outcomes while reducing overall costs. Companies like Athena Health and Aetna made waves by purchasing mobile health companies Epocrates and iTriage. Healthcare providers like Kaiser Permanente developed their own applications for consumers. These organizations are just beginning to implement comprehensive patient engagement solutions via mhealth – a trend that will continue into 2014.
Prediction #4 – “Incentives to ensure adoption.”
Incentives continued to grow in 2013. A study showed that 90% of employers offered wellness incentives or other financial rewards to keep employees healthy (up from 57% in 2009). As mobile healthcare became more prevalent in mainstream wellness programs, incentives were implemented to increase consumer usage. Perhaps the biggest news related to incentives in 2013 were provisions of the Accountable Care Act that allowed employers with wellness programs to increase incentive payments to 30 percent of coverage (up from 20 percent). This was also a hot topic at the 2013 mHealth Summit in December as speakers and panelists discussed not only the incentives for consumers, but also healthcare providers. With the emergence of pay-for performance healthcare models like Accountable Care Organizations and physicians needs to better quantify patient improvement and are themselves rewarded for patient engagement and improvement.