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Oh no, Mobile Health Isn’t Going to Save the World!

By January 28, 2016Commentary

I always wonder if the people doing the hyping about various health “innovations” actually believe the hype or are just trying to make money in some way.  Does that sound too naive or too cynical?  Anyway, mobile health apps, while not suffering from a shortage of hype, do suffer from a shortage of research supporting value.  Alas, the latest work, from the prestigious Scripps Institute, does nothing to fill the void.   (Scripps Study)   The authors evaluated use by adults with arrhythmia, hypertension and/or diabetes of a mobile monitoring device, compared to standard disease management for a control group.  The tracking data was shared with providers, the device vendor, the health plan, the wellness program and obviously the patient, all to no avail.  Over the six month study period there were no significant differences between the groups in terms of utilization or spending.  There was minor evidence suggesting some better self-management of health in the intervention group.  No work was done on the relative cost of the mobile device and app intervention versus standard disease management.  It could be that it is a cheaper way to get the same, but not better, outcomes.  I doubt that.  It also could be that over a longer period of time, maybe the mobile tracking would show better differentiation.  I doubt that even more.  So I choose the option that people hyping this stuff are doing it to make money.  I sincerely apologize to anyway offended by that and for my cynicism, which at least appears to be supported by the evidence.

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