Five tips for ensuring the success of your mHealth Initiative - Mobile World Live

Five tips for ensuring the success of your mHealth Initiative

01 NOV 2012

By Ahmed Albaiti

At Medullan, we recently surveyed 106 healthcare providers, insurers and other healthcare-related organizations on their mHealth strategies and drivers.  Two questions were asked:

1.    Opportunity:  What is the primary business driver of your company’s mHealth initiative?     

2.    Challenge:  What is the key challenge your organization faces in achieving its mHealth goals?  

Not surprisingly, the results varied significantly according to the type of organization. For example:

•    “Improved Patient Outcomes” was tied for third as the key opportunity driver among pharmaceutical companies, but was tied for last among providers of care.

•    “No Driver” was the number one response to key driver among device manufacturers…but not a single health plan admitted to this lack of direction.

Despite such variations among type of organization, there were a few general trends worth noting and rules of thumb that should be followed by all.

Opportunity Drivers

“No driver” was, on average across all respondents, the top answer for motivating opportunity.  In fact, nearly one in four healthcare organizations are pursuing an mHealth initiative without a specific business driver.  To call this result concerning is an understatement.

Key Challenges

In terms of challenges in meeting mHealth goals, “Lack of Funding” was at the bottom of the list for the entire respondent population.   The top answer was essentially a three-way tie:

•    “No Clear Strategy and Execution Plan” for 32 percent of all respondents.

•    “Lack of Leadership” for 30 percent.

•    “Lack of Skill Set In-House” for 28 percent.

This virtual three-way tie supports what Medullan has seen while serving clients: these challenges are interdependent. Without leadership or in-house skills, there is little chance of devising a clear strategy or execution plan.  Without leadership or a strategy, it is very difficult to attract the right skilled resources (especially when mobile talent is in such high demand).  And without mobile talent that is also healthcare-savvy, who can provide the leadership team with facts, options, trade-offs and suggested strategies for consideration?  

Five Recommendations

With the caveat that the specific results and targeted recommendations vary according to the type of organization (for example, plans versus providers), any mHealth initiative would benefit from abiding by these five rules of thumb:

1.    Approach mHealth innovation with the right cross-functional team.  Leadership and skills in innovation often hinge upon cross-functional coordination.  Innovation requires multi-functional perspectives from the early stages of strategy to the final tasks of execution.  Focus first on identifying any gaps that may exist in in-house skills and capabilities.  It is dangerous to begin an mHealth initiative with a team that has key gaps.  

If need be, augment your in-house team with outside professionals who are both health- and mobile-savvy.  For many healthcare organizations it doesn’t make sense to maintain a large full-time staff with all the potential skills.  For larger organizations where it does make sense, a third-party can temporarily fill in the gaps and help the team ramp-up quickly.

2.    Develop a clear strategy and a plan for execution. Ideas are easy to come up with – it’s concrete strategy and solid execution that are hard work. Spend the time to craft a clear strategy and a plan for execution. It not only will help steer the course toward achieving your objectives, it will help you obtain and maintain executive sponsorship and funding.  

But do not mistake mix deliberate due diligence with procrastination:  in the competitive mHealth marketplace, rolling out a solution even one month ahead of peers can help you capture significant market share.

3.    Secure executive sponsorship. The survey reinforced the obvious point that lack of leadership is a serious impediment to success. As with any major corporate initiative, it’s important to have sponsorship from a senior executive who can help ensure funding and other resources.

4.    Adopt best practices in new product development.  Outside of healthcare, companies are innovating at a rapid pace.  This wasn’t always true.  It has only been since the late 1980s that rapid innovation tools and processes were devised, refined and broadly adopted by even “high-tech” companies.  

Unfortunately, most healthcare organizations are not familiar with new product development tools or processes.  As a result, many healthcare companies find themselves in one of three difficult situations.  Some get mired in a cycle of endless planning and miss-starts from traditional product development disciplines.  Others try to short-cut the process and simply buy off-the-shelf solutions that do not really fit their needs and quickly become recognized as novelties of little value.  Yet others embark on grand plans based on the latest fad or start-up story in the media, only to discover a year later that what might work in entertainment or other industries doesn’t work for healthcare. Targeted, deliberate, rapid and most importantly, value-driven product development can help healthcare organizations avoid these common traps.

5.    Report frequently on milestones and success. mHealth initiatives are generally months-long projects, not quick fixes. For that reason, it’s important to identify key milestones in your plan, and then celebrate those mini-successes as you execute. Examples might be completing focus groups on user needs, completing UI testing, and rolling out a pilot to a subset of your target audience. Periodic updates will remind stakeholders of the importance and eventual impact of the initiative.

mHealth strategies are at the forefront of healthcare professionals’ minds, as virtually all patients now have at least one mobile device, with many households having three or four devices. Follow these steps to increase your odds of success, and maximize your return on mHealth investments.

Ahmed Albaiti is the CEO of Medullan.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.


Trevor Skinner

Trevor has worked for the GSMA for 22 years and has over 31 years’ experience within the marketing and communications sector. He started at GSMA as ‘webmaster’ designing and developing all online materials as well as handling all company related...

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