Who will regulate mHealth? Patient Engagement at Crossroads; New Alliance Takes On Interoperability

by | Apr 4, 2013

We came back from HIMSS and got right to work on the March Monthly Update for Chilmark Advisory Services subscribers. As we’ve reported in a previous post, HIMSS13 afforded enormous buzz and less enlightenment regarding the state of health IT, particularly the four key areas we see as essential to this industry making a true difference in patient care. In our March update, and the reports currently underway, Chilmark Research does the opposite: provide insight without buzz. Below are abstracts from this month’s update. To find out how you can receive the full update, send an email to: info at chilmarkresearch dot com

Public vs. Private Oversight of Mobile Health
John Moore III

mHealth, known for rapid innovation and iteration, has a tendency to buck at the snail’s pace of FDA regulation. Last month, during a series of hearings considering whether smartphones and tablets with medical apps qualify as medical devices and thus require FDA approval, many charged the FDA with stifling innovation. After all, how many developers or investors want to sink resources into an industry that will be regulated in ways that have yet to be determined?

Enter Happtique and its Health App Certification Program. Happtique intends to complement the work of the FDA, and has introduced a set of standards for health apps that fall into the grey area between apps that are clearly medical and those with a clear consumer focus. This could herald a new age of credibility for mHealth. However, as both regulator and marketplace for many of the apps that it regulates, Happtique could end up in a very sticky situation. They will need to tread carefully to maintain their objectivity in both certifying apps while at the same time providing a marketplace for mHealth apps.

The March Toward Better Patient Engagement
Naveen Rao

The open question in health IT these days is whether patient engagement will gain traction or if it will suffer the same fate as PHRs. One thing is certain; healthcare needs far better patient engagement methods, processes and techniques than what one finds today as most current efforts in engagement have very little to do with helping a patient manage a condition. Time and again in our discussions with healthcare institutions of all sizes we find the same scenario being played out – engagement today is focused on building patient/customer loyalty to the institution – they are simply no more than marketing efforts.

Stage 2 meaningful use is requiring a deeper level of patient access to their records via view, download and transmit requirements and there is even a requirement for some email messaging between provider and patient. But there is a bigger issue at play, payment reform wherein providers will be taking on more risk for the patient populations they manage. Without deeper engagement with the patient regarding a chronic disease, providers will struggle with these new payment risk models.

Several related markets, such as telemonitoring and wearable tech are taking off. Chilmark analyst Naveen Rao spent near-exclusive attention to the patient-engagement tracks, vendors, and sessions at HIMSS13. In his article for the March update, Naveen identifies three factors that will define if and how well the patient-engagement market will stay afloat in the coming years.

CommonWell Alliance Intends to Tackle Interop
John Moore

The announcement of CommonWell Health Alliance was likely the biggest story to come out of HIMSS (Allscripts acquiring longtime HIE partner dbMotion may have been a close second). The group’s stated purpose is to enable interoperability across the five founding members’ EHRs. For starters at least, this includes: Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, Greenway, and McKesson’s RelayHealth division. In its simplest form, CommonWell will establish a set of standards and services that enable query-based health information sharing in a heterogeneous EHR environment.

Part of the challenge with interoperability within a community of heterogeneous EHRs is that standards are useless when it comes to things like patient matching, consent management, or locating records, all of which are fundamental to interoperability and all of which require standardized services model. CommonWell founders know this and have plans to address it. The greatest challenge facing CommonWell, however, may be the market itself as adoption of HIE tech within the ambulatory sector remains a challenge.

Each month, subscribers to the Chilmark Advisory Services (CAS) receive an update of our research on the most transformative trends in the healthcare IT sector. Exclusive to CAS subscribers, monthly updates are part of the continuous feed of information and analysis we generate to keep subscribers on top of the rapid-fire changes in this market.



  1. Connected Health Trend Countdown: #4 Reaching the Mobile 91% | Perficient Healthcare IT Solutions Blog - […] private market has also generated a Health App Certification Program named Happtique. Happtique has been around for several years,…
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