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The "3 Use Rules" to Evaluate Mobile Health Solutions

Uli K. Chettipally, MD., MPH. Physician Innovator, Technology Enabled Care


Every day we are seeing an array of new mobile health products and solutions entering the market. With major technology companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung entering the fray, there is a lot of talk about the developments and the future of this space. There is also a lot of hype in the media about how wonderful life will be, with all these devices measuring and monitoring our every heart beat and every move. It reminds me of the song, "Every Breath You Take" by The Police (1983 A&M Records Ltd.).

I am an optimist and a firm believer in information technology being a part of the solution to our current problems in healthcare. I also believe that we will see a major transformation in healthcare business in the next 10 years. So, how does one evaluate, embrace and invest in these mobile health solutions?

There are 3 things I look for in a mobile health solution. I call them the "3 Use Rules". To succeed in a market, 1) a solution has to be USABLE, 2) proven to be USEFUL and 3) should be USED. This sounds simple, right? Let me explain what each of these 3 rules mean.

  1. Is it USABLE? This is a question that pertains to the PRODUCT: Is the design and user interface easy on the eye and easy to use? Is the quality of the product and workmanship good? Is the data that is produced consistent and accurate? Does it work the way it is supposed to? Is the technology behind the solution sound? Does it have good design elements? Is the navigation easy? Is it easy to learn to use it? Is it easy to maintain? This is a technology and design question and can be easily answered. Most of the mobile and digital health companies are at this stage.

  2. Is it proven to be USEFUL? This question pertains to the PROBLEM. What is the problem it is trying to solve? Is there a target disease or condition that the solution can help predict, prevent, cure, maintain or monitor? Is the problem significant? Is there evidence to show that using the solution will solve the problem? Are there clinical studies to show this? This is a clinical question and is harder to answer. Several start-ups are in this stage trying to prove their solutions' usefulness. They have to prove the benefits through clinical studies.

  3. Will it be USED? This question pertains to the PROVIDERS and PATIENTS. How will it affect the work of providers? How will it make the patients feel? Who will pay for the product or service? Are the market conditions favorable? Are there tangible benefits that come from using the solution? Can the outcomes be measured in cost savings, improvement in quality of life, or convenience? This is a business question, which is even harder to answer. A solution has to make business sense and has to have a proven model to provide value to the payers, distributors and users, while generating revenue.

There are companies that will not be able to answer these questions right now. They may be in an exploratory phase and have a long-term outlook. In that case, one should be prepared for a long time frame to derive value from the product or service.

Thanks for reading my post. I would love to hear your views, comments, and suggestions!

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