Reimbursement, Regulation Uncertainty Hindering mHealth

March 18, 2014 in News

Although mobile health holds significant promise, lack of reimbursement and uncertainty about regulation and standards are hindering innovation in the industry, according to a new report from the Brookings Institute’s Center for Technology Innovation, FierceMobileHealthcare reports.

The report analyzed the mobile health industries in China and the U.S. (Mottl, FierceMobileHealthcare, 3/14). According to the report, both countries face similar health care challenges, such as aging populations, high rates of chronic disease and disparities in access to care, particularly in rural populations.

Report Findings

The researchers found that mobile health care in both countries were hindered by a lack of:

  • Clarity about the rules and regulations governing mobile health applications (Ritger, National Journal, 3/12);
  • Reimbursement from federal health agencies and health care payers; and
  • Support from public agencies.

However, researchers found that the mobile health industry is projected to grow rapidly regardless of those obstacles. According to the report, annual mobile health revenue is expected to reach $23 billion globally by 2017, with China and the U.S. commanding a combined one-third of the global market (FierceMobileHealthcare, 3/14).

The report outlined several benefits to the greater adoption of mobile health, including:

  • Boosting access to care in rural areas;
  • Reducing inefficiencies and errors in prescriptions and medical tests;
  • Aiding physicians in monitoring patients with chronic illnesses;
  • Reminding patients about medication and appointments; and
  • Improving health policy decisions by garnering more information on public health (National Journal, 3/12).


The researchers offered several recommendations to spur growth in the mobile health sector, including that:

  • Policymakers should facilitate mobile health development by eliminating uncertainty in regulations and clarifying rules;
  • Public authorities should encourage the use of mobile health technology to boost consumer adoption; and
  • Regulators should bolster reimbursement policies for mobile health services and products (FierceMobileHealthcare, 3/14).

Comments at Panel Discussion

The Brookings Institute hosted a panel discussion on the findings, which included speakers from both China and the U.S.

Xiaohui Yu, chief engineer at the China Academy of Telecommunications Research of MIIT, said that mobile health technology can help the country shift from a focus on treatment to “focus [on] prevention and wellness,” as well as “from hospitals to the patients” (Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 3/17).

Darrell West — founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation and one of the study’s co-authors — said that “there are tremendous opportunities in mobile health in terms of improving the patient experience and controlling costs.” He added that when consumers use mobile health, “it creates the possibilities of doing data analysis that helps us answer basic questions about health care” (National Journal, 3/12).

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