In the age of tablets and apps, more people are turning to electronic devices to manage their health. Apps are being adopted faster than they can be developed. According to recent data, consumers are expected to spend about $26 billion by 2017 on mobile health applications!

Within five years about half of all mobile phone and tablet owners will have mobile health applications. Very quickly these apps will begin to make their way into traditional health distribution pathways.

The types of mobile health applications are increasing at an incredible rate. Second generation apps will cover chronic diseases and mobile health business models will begin to cover more of the market. Increasingly business models are tied to apps and with a focus on health-conscious people, patients and corporations.

The app market is booming, but there are barriers interfering with the adoption of mobile medical applications into the realm of mainstream healthcare. One problem is transferring the data from the devices to the physicians. Right now there is no system for integrating the data from the mobile apps with physician clinical records and the electronic health records. As to how data from the mobile apps might be integrated with other clinical information, some experts suggested it might first go into a cloud computing system which would then download it into electronic health records. But mobile health information is unlikely to play a major role until physicians are assured that it would improve care and would not increase their liability.

Once the information makes its way to the physician, there are more issues. There is no reimbursement system set up for physicians to review the information. Physicians may become more accepting of mobile health apps if a new reimbursement system can be developed, according to healthcare experts. Some providers now are beginning to monitor patients through mobile health apps but this is in a very preliminary stage since the physician’s time is valuable and they cannot be reimbursed at this time.

Insurance companies will eventually have to get involved with the adoption of apps and electronic devices. Healthcare experts expect that in the next phase of mobile health application insurance companies will enter the field as the main payers. This is a ways off because insurance companies currently have very little involvement in this area – they do not even pay for home monitoring.

There are factors which could accelerate the expansion of mobile health apps into the mainstream. One of these is meaningful use. Meaningful use is the set of standards defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Incentive Programs that administers the use of electronic health records and allows eligible providers and hospitals to earn incentive payments by meeting specific criteria. In order to achieve meaningful use, hospitals must adopt certified electronic health record technology and use it to achieve specific objectives denoted in three stages, Stage 3 being the final stage which is scheduled for 2016.

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