Top 10 stories of 2015, so far

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Efforts to rate the reliability of apps and pay providers for using telehealth, along with an ongoing battle in Texas over the efficacy of a telehealth visit, have garnered the most interest among mHealth News readers through the first half of the year.

In tabulating reader interest over the first six months of 2015, these stories ended up as the top 10 most read to date:

1. Top mHealth apps as rated by doctors (Jan. 20, 2015). HealthTap got the year off to a strong start with a January survey of more than 500,000 physicians, leading to a series of lists of the top 100 iOS and Android apps, as well as some 30 lists of the best apps by category. The effort addressed a growing need among providers for some sort of rating system of the thousands of healthcare-related apps on the market, which they could use in prescribing mHealth treatments for their patients. Expect many more to come.

2. Epic to open its own app store (Feb. 18, 2015) – The publicity-shy and strongly independent EHR developer forged its own path to mHealth integration this past February when news reports surfaced that it would develop its own mobile apps. The announcement, leaked out of a small luncheon in Wisconsin, marked a watershed moment for mHealth – the big boys were finally paying attention to providers who want to access medical records on something other than a nurse's work station.

3. CMS boosts telehealth in 2015 physician pay schedule (Nov. 3, 2014) – Yes, this news came down last November, but the fallout was strong enough to keep it at the top of readers' minds through the first half of this year. Finally, providers are starting to get paid for time spent with their patients outside the office or clinic. The reimbursements for remote care for chromic patients might not satisfy everyone, but as the American Telemedicine Association – who'd been lobbying for these payments for half a decade – pointed out, it's a "clear and bold step in the right direction."

4. Texas board curbs telemedicine, prompts lawsuit (Jan. 23, 2015). This story isn't going away any time soon. Dallas-based Teladoc, billed as one of the nation's largest telehealth networks, found itself in the crosshairs of the Texas Medical Board when a long-standing debate over the efficacy of telephone-based doctor visits culminated in the board's decision to amend its rules this year. The board moved to mandate a face-to-face visit between a physician and a new patient as the first point of contact, before the physician could make certain diagnoses or issue a prescription. Teladoc, which does most of its business via telephone, fought back. The board's ruling has since been put on hold by a higher court, with a trial looming.

5. Microsoft's big telemedicine move (April 23, 2015). With Apple and Google grabbing the headlines on several occasions with mHealth-related rollouts, Microsoft decided to plant its flag in April with a partnership that revives the oft-derided-but-still-popular Skype platform. The company, which had acquired Skype several years ago and recently retooled it, announced a deal with MDLIVE to launch the telehealth service on an app for the Windows Phone and Surface Pro 3 tablets. The project gives Skype a new foothold in the telemedicine landscape, and could prove much more successful than Google's failed Helpouts platform.

6. Kiosks: An mHealth entry point for providers (May 20, 2014). Another oldie, dating back to May 2014, but a popular topic with readers. Kiosks such as those developed by HealthSpot are emerging as a viable telehealth platform in retail locations, large businesses, remote locations, even hospital ERs. In fact, in one study conducted by HealthSpot and Kaiser Permanente in California, HealthSpot officials argued that a kiosk offers a better telehealth experience than a home-based online encounter.

7. 3 things telehealth needs to succeed in 2015 (Dec. 31, 2014). A primer for the coming year, delivered on the last day of 2014. The predictions? Combining mobile diagnostic devices with online consults, the rise of patient-generated data from wireless devices, and using mHealth to reduce the 30-day readmission rate at hospitals. Sounds pretty spot-on so far.

8. Apple and IBM unveil new apps for nurses (April 1, 2015). No April Fool's Day joke here. Nurses are a fast-growing and vital market for mHealth, and one that has been sadly overlooked to date. What's more, a nurse will use mHealth tools and platforms differently than a doctor, so it’s not always safe to assume that a clinician-facing app or solution will appeal to everybody in the healthcare setting – or meet their needs. As this story proves, some companies, like IBM and Apple, get that. 

9. This just in: Doctors are miserable, and technology isn't helping (March 11, 2015). The results of a physician survey conducted by Geneia were eye-opening. Doctors said the burdens of business and regulation in healthcare were keeping them from enjoying their work, and some are on the brink of burnout. And technology is in some cases exacerbating the problem. Can mHealth ease that burden and get doctors to enjoy their jobs again? That's the hope. What docs need, however, is more proof.

10. Interstate telehealth licensing compact set to become reality (May 15, 2015). Definitely big news on the telehealth licensure front. With approval by Alabama legislators in May, seven states signed on to the Federation of State Medical Boards' Interstate Licensure Compact, passing the threshold needed to make the measure a reality. Several other states are poised to support the compact, which expedites the licensure process for doctors who want to practice telemedicine across state lines.