When I think of the boom in Healthcare IT, I am reminded of the multitude of systems which allow providers to communicate to other providers, patients, and insurance companies to facilitate the care of the patient and management of health services. I know there are several websites available to communicate with the patient or member community, yet, the mobile applications are generally lacking. While there is an app for your health and fitness, there aren't many apps for the patient which insurance companies or health care providers are supplying. When I saw this HDM article about Kaiser finally producing a mobile app, it made me ask, "Why aren't more Insurers and Providers pushing data to a mobile device?" While there is some movement in the mobile space, health care has been slow to get there. I can think of several reasons why:
1) There's a huge amount of investment going into the internal systems. The primary focus for many organizations is to enhance the internal processes and systems for the payer or provider. Actually getting data out to the patient and employer community isn't as high a priority. The latest round of HIPAA is in final transition, ICD10 conversions are a huge effort, provider transparency and other interoperability projects are usually within the portfolio at an Insurer or Healthcare provider in the current moment. I think mobile apps are just beginning to be researched by these organizations to determine the best way to make data relevant to a mobile user.
2) Security risks are weighed more heavily within the Health Care industry, particularly when compared to other industries such as retail. However, Banking and Financial industries probably have the same security restrictions; they've already overcome that particular hump. At least there is a model available once Insurers and Providers are ready to push data out to a mobile device.
3) Online web access for members and patients are in place and serving the needs of the market. Mobile application development is just another avenue for this same functionality. Insurers and Providers are probably not thinking longer term as to why they need to start investigating making the mobile channel available. Based on how much traffic is generated on their web sites compared to how many patients or members they have, they may not yet see the justification. This has to do with the demographics of their markets.
4) The population using mobile devices is just beginning to grow. The largest part of the member/patient population is an older generation who may not be using the web application. Older folks do tend to call in with questions and do not rely on a computer to make payments or answer questions. Meanwhile, we have a younger population who is healthy and does not have the same health care needs. I think insurers and health care providers need to realize how the market will eventually change.