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5 Policies to Promote mHealth in China and the United States

A women undergoes an eye exam using a mobile phone in Kenya.

The Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) at Brookings hosted an event on March 13th to discuss mobile health in China and the United States. Darrell West, Vice President of Governance Studies, welcomed the guests to the forum and presented research on mHealth in the US.  Following him Yu Xiaohui and Li Haihua, from the China Academy of Telecommunications Research of MIIT (CATR) presented their findings.  Gigi Sorenson the Director of Telehealth for Northern Arizona Healthcare then joined the other presenters for a panel discussion on the paper, “mHealth in China and the United States: How Mobile Technology is Transforming Health Care in the World’s Two Largest Economies." The panelists addressed the potential of mHealth and the policy barriers hindering mHealth initiatives.

Policy Recommendations to Promote mHealth

1. Mobile devices offer the potential to improve affordability of health care by lowering disparities based on geography and income. Policymakers should encourage the use and adoption of cellphones, smartphones, and tablets in medical care.

2. Public officials should reimburse health providers who offer consultations, diagnoses, and treatment through remote monitoring devices and other types of mobile technologies.  In the United States, many health insurance companies don’t allow providers to bill for certain mHealth devices and services.  Changes to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement could help to reform in the private sector.

 3. Policy makers need to issue regulations for mobile applications so that designers can have certainty about the legality of developing for mHealth.  Mobile phones improve the patient experience by providing a platform to deliver reminders and diagnostic information to patients and physicians. Prompts via text messages can encourage patients to take medication at the recommended time and dosage, which improves the quality of patient care. 

 4. mHealth can also help policymakers by encouraging better health data collection and analysis.  Supporting high quality research will improve the overall quality of care.

 5. Policy makers need to amend current policies to address new challenges presented by mHealth.  Using mobile platforms presents unique safety issues.  It is possible to overcome these problems but important for governments to address them before mHealth goes mainstream.

Barriers for mHealth In China

To improve its health care system China must address several challenges.  Among the most difficult barriers to overcome are rising health care costs, an aging population, scarce resources, and the unavailability of medical services in rural areas. mHealth devices can help to alleviate many of these problems.

Mobile broadband is playing an important role in improving healthcare access and medical service delivery by mHealth devices. mHealth offers the potential to improve access and affordability of healthcare by decreasing inequality based on geography and income. Mobile devices also improve administrative efficiency by reducing errors and streamlining medical processes.

mHealth Progress in the US

In the United States the Flagstaff Medical Center has piloted an innovative new program that uses remote monitoring devices to treat patients suffering from congestive heart failure. mHealth devices have a tremendous impact on patients and caregivers. Patients feel more engaged and secure in their health care services while medical facilities save money through more efficient treatments and avoid staff intensive processes.

The Center for Technology Innovation was pleased to host these distinguished experts in the mHealth field. To learn more about the research from CTI and CATR stay tuned to TechTank or read the paper on mHealth in China and the US


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