Canadian health care lags in mobile adoption: IDC

The prevalence of mobile technology is being felt in most in many industries but its adoption is lagging in health care where its implementation are likely to provide major benefits, according to a recent report by analyst firm IDC Canada.

“We’re seeing nearly half of respondents have not deployed any mobile technologies in their field of work,” according to Allison Brooks research director for public sector at IDC. “While mobility is high on the list of priorities in other industries, this doesn’t seem to be the case with the health care sector.”

In an online survey of health care providers from across the country, the analyst firm found that more than 46 per cent of health care respondents said their organization has not deployed any mobile applications. By contrast, 37.5 per cent of all industries have not deployed mobile apps, according to the study titled “Perspective: m-health in Canada – Smart phones and apps bring better health care to your fingertips.” The report was authored by Brooks and Krista Napier, senior analyst for mobility at IDC Canada.


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IDC defines m-health or mobile health as the use of mobile devices to support the practice of medicine, public health and all related care services. This involves the delivery of health services and information via mobile technologies such as mobile phones and tablet devices.

The study identified four key areas where m-health focuses:

Caregiver community – Collaborative medicine, coordinated care, and access to mission critical clinical applications at the point of care

Telemedicine – Remote diagnostics, remote treatment, education

Health and wellness – Sleep management, healthy eating, accessing health records, exercise management, countering addiction

Care self-management – Medication management, managing vital signs, monitoring disease, self-education and alarms and alerts

Despite these uses, the study found only 7.6 per cent of health care providers have implemented two or more applications compared to 30 per cent of all industries.

Mobility is only fifth in the list of top health care IT priorities.

“Health care respondents’ top priorities are application consolidation and modernizations and workplace/desktop improvement, followed by software implementations and workplace/desktop consolidation and automation,” the study said. “Only then will they begin to focus on network improvements and mobility integration and improvement.

Surprisingly, health care is lagging in deployment of mobile applications the sector is ahead in pilot testing. Some 26 per cent of health care respondents take part in m-health testing compared to 21.9 per cent for all industries.

The study said government plays a critical role in driving m-health adoption in the country.

It said Canada’s health care framework presents a challenge. For instance, the federal government is responsible for ensuring health care services are available to all Canadians and it is also responsible for health protection, pharmaceutical, food and medical device regulation as well as disease surveillance and prevention.

However, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for delivering health and social services based on federal guidelines.

The system can breed some difficulties for instance in the area of medical devices and their apps.

In Canada, legislation limits Health Canada to regulating medical devices that are for sale but not the apps that are free to consumers or that are hosted in other countries and accessible through the Internet.

“Transforming Canada’s health care system, including m-health, requires all levels of government to collaborate and work together,” the report said.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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