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Emily Seto Part 3, What Is The Biggest Challenge of mHealth?

In part 3 of this Exclusive Interview, Dr. Emily Seto talks with Diabetes in Control Publisher Steve Freed during the ADA meeting in San Diego, CA about the challenges within the patient use of technology.

Emily Seto, PhD, PEM is an Assistant Professor and Lead for the health informatics programs at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.

Transcript of this video segment:

Steve Freed: What is the biggest challenge to mHealth realizing its potential in helping with diabetes management?

Emily Seto: I think part of the challenge is getting patients to use it for long-term. So a lot of people who download apps or use wearables, for example, they have this honeymoon phase where it’s kind of cool to use for a little while, and then they stop using it. So how do you make these types of technologies sticky so that they are used long-term? I think there are a lot of opportunities around, first of all, making it so valuable that people want to keep using it. And then also, making it super easy to use so that it gets within the routine. We want it to become like brushing your teeth. So checking blood sugars through these apps is just something that you do every day. There are also opportunities around doing more novel things like adding gamification into things or a social networking which seems to work very well with adolescents, for example, with type 1 diabetes. And then there are also ideas around using reward systems. For example, the Care Reward app is really well-known and it has some really good benefits of doing that and so we’ve also looked at giving air miles, for example, to incentivize people to start using and to keep using apps.

Steve Freed: How long ago did you start doing this?

Emily Seto: It’s about 10 years now.

Steve Freed: I would think that it would be less than that, when it comes to apps and the popularity and what we’re doing with them because, if you think about it, you wouldn’t have a job in this industry 12 years ago and because of that, it is done for new jobs, because of demand for people. What kind of people are you looking for when it comes to hiring people to do this?

Emily Seto: If I could just comment, first of all, the first part of your statement, I think, is absolutely true. I mean 10 years ago, we’re looking at very different types of technologies. You were looking at a lot of tech space and typing it into very old types of cell phones. So we started early and the types of technologies we were using before were completely different than now. In terms of the people who are working in this space now, it is complete interdisciplinary. So we have people who are creating the apps, obviously, we have the developers, graphic designers, but we also have people who understand behavior, especially behavior of patients and what it is that we can try to do to motivate them to tweak their behavior for the positive. We also have a lot of researchers on the end and then we work really closely with patients, as I mentioned, and clinicians for developing these. So we never start out developing anything without a clinical champion who really understands the problems that we’re trying to solve because we don’t want to ploy technology just for technology’s sake. We want to make sure that it is solving a real need.

Steve Freed: And how do deal with using mHealth with people who do not have smartphone technology or do not have the means to pay for mobile technology?

Emily Seto: Right. So I think it is interesting because now the majority of people actually do have smartphones and the trend is going that more people have cell phones than they have toothbrushes, for example. And so I don’t think it is something that we need to worry about so much in the future and honestly, these type of mobile technologies can actually be looking at sort of leveling the playing field. So people who don’t have access probably to computers can have access to cell phones and there’s very interesting studies [that] are going on right now giving cell phones to people who are vulnerable, such as the homeless, and you get connected through Wi-Fi, for example. So I think that we have to look at this as an opportunity to kind of reach people and connect people to healthcare services and providers that normally don’t have it. I guess the other comment is for those people who don’t have it, none of this technology is for everybody. We are trying to hit a population that we can help, and again, I think that in the future, this probably won’t even be a problem in a few years.

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