Mobile's role in healthcare is still experimental

Nelli Lähteenmäki, CEO of Fifth Corner, which founded You-app
Nelli Lähteenmäki, CEO of Fifth Corner, which founded You-app

The role of mobile technology in healthcare is still widely considered experimental, but increasingly sophisticated mobile apps and wearable technologies are believed to be promising new tools that will drive behavior change and improve people's health.


Many of the speakers and much of the talk at the Lions Health creativity festival this week in Cannes, France, focused on technology at a time when the US healthcare industry is grappling with long-standing issues such as medication adherence and rising costs while also seeking new ways to improve the health of people with chronic diseases.


“This is just the start of the new digital and mobile health economy,” Peter Ohnemus, president and CEO of mobile health company Dacadoo, said in an email. “We see outside players such Apple, Google and Samsung moving into the industry at a speed healthcare and pharma have not been used to.”


Ohnemus founded Dacadoo, a mobile app that provides users with a health score that changes in real-time based on lifestyle, body and emotional wellbeing. Dacadoo earlier this month closed its Series A financing round. Samsung Venture Investment was one investor.


Most applications of mobile technology in healthcare now gather basic data, like heart rate and weight, and some systems provide incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle habits, but experts here say the manner in which that data will be used to improve health is expected to become more tailored and sophisticated as the technology moves out of the experimental phase.


“It's not enough to do it the traditional way,” Nelli Lähteenmäki, CEO of mobile company Fifth Corner, said during a talk she gave Friday at the festival. “How do we change behavior?”


The company developed You-app, a mobile health and wellbeing app that encourages people to take “micro-actions” to improve their health, based on food, movement, mind and relationships. An user uploads a photo or shares his or her micro-action for the day into the app and then the app's functionality as well as online peers who are connected to the user provide support. You-app officially launched in April.


As the costs of monitoring have gone down and there is less of a need to test the technology, the focus now is figuring out the relevancy of mobile technology in the healthcare industry, said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association. DuBravac spoke Friday at Lions Health about digital health transformation.


“If it doesn't drive change or change behavior, it will fall to the wayside,” he said during an interview.


DuBravac described a program at auto insurance company Progressive that encourages people to provide GPS data such as sudden changes in speed and how much someone drives in exchange for lower insurance payments. He noted that a program like this could have wider applications for healthcare insurers and others that are seeking new ways to drive adherence and encourage healthy behaviors in patients.

 

Looking for more Cannes Lion coverage? Here you'll find daily news of the latest trends, themes and chatter around creativity in healthcare, live from the south of France during the two-day festival.

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