Key Takeaways

  • mHealth requires a fundamental change in the way health care professionals perceive the delivery of services to a ‘patient-as-a-consumer’ model.
  • Health professionals fear that mHealth technologies will make patients too independent and result in lack of income.
  • mHealth facilitation requires investment by government and other key stakeholders in terms of infrastructure, communication and decentralisation.

Although patients are embracing the benefits of digital health, the PwC report Emerging mHealth: Paths for growth, revealed that healthcare professionals are more tentative in their approach towards these evolving technologies.

“mHealth is about fundamentally changing the social contract between patient and doctors,” comments Eric Dishman, Director of Health Innovation at Intel.

Where the usual operation for healthcare professionals globally has been the ‘doctor-direct care’ model, mHealth requires a disruptive change to industry perceptions, in order to move towards the ‘patient-as-a-consumer’ view.

Although digital health will assist with the provision of patient care and ease administrative headaches, the research highlighted those doctors are resistant to this disruption to their traditional roles – with 13% actively discouraging patients from managing their health via these applications. Driving this behaviour is a fear that digital health tech will make patients too independent, which was indicated by 42% of the sample.

Axel Nemetz, Head of Vodafone mHealth Solutions recounts an experience of this, where a particular project proposal was blocked by hospital administrators because of perceived loss of income from the reduced requirement of their services, despite acknowledging the broader benefit to patients as a result of the solution.

Similarly the response to the PCEHR locally has been met with criticism from the wider community of medical practitioners, businesses and industry associations:

Australian Medical Association President Steve Hambleton described the PCEHR as “…an extra piece of work providing a subset of the GP’s patient record…,” when discussing the robustness of the system with The Australian. Mr. Hambleton went on to advise that “frontline GPs were totally unprepared for the launch, and most would not even know whether their software was compatible.”

The Australian also reported that medical indemnity insurers were warning GPs not to sign the contracts underpinning the participation in the new e-Health system because it could expose them to a new wave of litigation.

Findings by independent computer emergency response team, AusCERT also rang alarm bells about the introduction of the new system, cautioning of the possibility that, “…the PCEHR could be a catalyst for wholesale access to these drugs.” (as reported by The Australian)

Not to be taken lightly, that these issues are arising immediately prior to the PCEHR launch is cause for concern in terms of communication around the project and its execution. This response is congruent with the PwC global industry research, which indicated that healthcare sectors are frequently disjointed, culturally conservative, highly regulated and fragmented yet often monopolistic systems that often provide contradictory incentives.

The research identified that ensuring privacy and security for all parties, as well as the lack of existing technology also represented barriers to the adoption of digital health technologies. One-third of public sector doctors indicated that they did not access to mobile Internet at work, compared with 14% in the private sector – highlighting the need for governments to invest more in this sector to meet patient needs.

As highlighted by the research, although legacy systems present a barrier for the adoption of mHealth technologies, burgeoning world economies are seemingly in a more agile position to adopt mobile channels as a part of their regular service.


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Nirosha Methananda

Nirosha is a former marketing lead for PwC’s Technology Consulting services.

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