Why mHealth sometimes fails

During the past couple of years, about a thousand COPD patients have used our mHealth tool at home. We have trained healthcare staff at 26 different hospitals and clinics. Therefore, we are now able to see patterns in why it sometimes takes a long time for a connected mHealth tool, like ours, to provide value. We also see cases where the expected benefits were realized much earlier than expected.

Let’s start with the things that go wrong.

No implementation is the same, but based on our experience, we see a few primary reasons for why connected mHealth/eHealth implementations are failing or take longer than expected. The first one is organizational readiness. Does the key staff, who will be a driving force in making the eHealth solution a success, have the time and skills needed to succeed? Most of the healthcare professionals we have worked with have been eager to make it work. However, some of them simply don’t have the time needed to train patients and do the follow-up, which are essential components to a successful implementation. These new processes take time to learn and master – and they are not always prioritized, because the everyday tasks are first in line. Therefore, it’s very important to make sure that the key people have enough time available during their work week – not only during the implementation phase – but especially when the mHealth tool is put into operation.

Another issue we have discovered is that providing too many options, that accommodate very specific and individual needs among patients and health care staff, cause more confusion than good. Starting off with a simple and easy plan is the way to go in many cases. Then, as usage and confidence increases, it makes sense to allow for detailed adjustments. The hard thing about this approach, is that you really want to show everything your system can do – and therefore tend to provide too many options during that initial phase.

You also need to accept that your eHealth service will not work for every single patient. However, our experience tells us that there is a strong correlation between healthcare staff engagement (primarily time available) and patient engagement. For implementations that have been running successfully for 1-2 years, we see that the time needed per patient is diminishing.

Sometimes, it’s important to admit that all the time in the world is not always enough. We learnt that a number of patients would drop off, no matter how hard you try. Therefore, it’s important to use a balanced amount of resources to get these patients back on track – because they can end up consuming a lot of time.

I have just touched a few key points in this post. I my next post I will go more into detail with some of the underlying reasons for why we either see mHealth projects fail or become a success.

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