But in real life, cellphone coverage can be spotty. Recording live video from the back of a moving ambulance over bumpy roads is tricky. And institutions are often reluctant to overburden doctors or paramedics with yet another task, especially an unfamiliar one.
CodeHeart, a mobile application to speed diagnosis of heart attacks, has been under development in this area for two years, but it’s still struggling to enlist emergency medical crews’ participation for a pilot project. The slow going reflects the complicated nature of mobile solutions for the health-care-provider market, which has generally taken a cautious approach to new technology for storing and sharing patient information, experts say.
Providers are cautious
By contrast, mobile health technology has exploded in the consumer market, with 17 percent of cellphone owners, or 15 percent of adults, having used their cellphones to look up health or medical information, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Consumers are increasingly using their phones to track, manage and improve health. For example, Text4baby is a free text messaging service that sends reminders to pregnant women and new mothers. The app is made available at no cost through a partnership of community health organizations, wireless carriers, businesses, health-care providers and government health agencies. In November, this service claimed to have reached nearly 250,000 people in the United States. [Also, see the Gazelle app in the story below.]
In prepared remarks last month to a convention on mobile medical devices, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that at Apple’s iTunes store alone, there are nearly 12,000 apps related to health, “a number that will probably have gone up by the time I finish speaking.”
But mobile health technology that aims to link providers to one another has developed more slowly for a variety of reasons, even though most doctors use smartphones, personal tablets and other devices within their own practices, analysts said.
There are compatibility issues. Each hospital has its own electronic information system. These systems are currently designed to work with a mouse, keyboard and monitor, and don’t adapt easily to touch-screen tablets, said John Moore, managing partner of Chilmark Research, which analyzes health-care information technology.