If there’s one certainty about mHealth, it’s that we don’t know much about its utility … yet.

Oh sure, every couple of weeks or so we hear about a study or read an essay that boasts of the numerous ways mHealth is going to alter care delivery. Heck, we’ve even written about a few of them. And, we’ve dedicated year two of our Connecting the Continuum series to the concept for a reason. We believe mHealth has great potential to change the way providers interact with patients. But it still fees like we are in the infancy of figuring what works, what doesn’t and why. I came across a couple of recent web posts that reminded me of this.

  • News that Google is piloting a service that will enable searchers to video chat with a health care provider. It’s an expansion of its Helpouts program. But even established telehealth programs have struggled to gain a strong foothold. And what about those pesky regulatory issues of physicians practicing across state lines?
  • A new study from Manhattan Research showed a 27 percent increase between 2012 – 2013 in the number people utilizing mHealth apps on their smartphones. Among those surveyed, 38 percent said their device was “essential” for finding health and medical information. But the study, which is geared towards the pharma industry, also found, “that mobile health adoption, activities and attitudes vary greatly among the patient audiences tracked, highlighting the need for marketers to understand mobile behavior by unique therapeutic segments.”
  • And this interesting blog from Partners Healthcare’s Center for Connected Health, which gets at the question: How much do we really know about the purported success of mHealth apps and programs? “If people use it and are willing to pay, that proves its utility, right?” But, as the blog goes on to note, “It is cliché to say it, but lives are at stake. So we’re more careful and more demanding of evidence. Is this holding us up from the changes that need to occur in our broken health care non-system? Possibly.”

Still, hospitals may be well positioned to help all of us navigate the murky mHealth waters. Organizations like Ochsner Health System are working with patients to help them assess and better understand how to use mHealth apps.

As always, we welcome your thoughts. Comment below or directly to me via emailTwitter or Google+