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A few years ago, I was talking to my cousin. She told me that she was annoyed because her husband had invested in Chinese CDs. My interest was piqued because I wasn’t aware that it was possible to obtain CDs issued from a Chinese bank or what the benefit was over Certificates of Deposit from an American bank, so I questioned her further. It turns out that her husband had invested in compact discs that taught one how to speak Chinese.
That was understandable. We use the same terms and acronyms for many things in our lives that have different meanings based on context. “ED” means one thing in the hospital environment and something entirely different when considering Pfizer’s product line. Some other time I’ll tell you the story of when I was working at a drug store in my high school days, and a customer asked where she could find Tampax, but what I heard was “thumb tacks.”
So I started thinking of the potential for such confusion in the world of mobile health. There was a time when if someone said “mobile,” the first thing one thought of was either a work of art by Alexander Calder or that fine city in Alabama. But that was if you pronounced the word “moe-beel.” Pronouncing it the way we do now in reference to health – “moe-bill” – would have conjured up a place to fill up your car’s gas tank. Now, a simple Google search on that word first yields a link to T-Mobile, followed by a link to Google’s mobile offerings, followed by a Wikipedia entry, and THEN the website for the city of Mobile, Ala. No signs of Calder.
The first three entries when searching on the word “tablet” are CNET’s reviews of tablet devices, Tablet Magazine and Tablet Hotels. Not bad. In my younger days, a tablet was simply a different shape of a pill. And a really long time ago, they referred to stones upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments.
Remember when jobs were something you applied for and an apple was something you ate or baked in a pie? Same with blackberries.
Speaking of Apple, I did a simple search in the iTunes app store for the world “health.” As you might imagine, hundreds of apps are available – most with seemingly good intentions of wellness promotion, reference guides and condition-specific tools and information. What I found interesting – nay, perplexing – was that the 13th app listed – out of dozens, if not hundreds – was Zombie Swipeout. The description states, “The undead are leaping for your lobes! Dust off your trusty machete and help Joey, our intrepid hero, show them some manners the Zombie Swipeout way!" I am still struggling, not only with what this has to do with health (except for the seemingly waning health of the zombies), but why this app was listed before so many others, including those from Weight Watchers and WebMD.
What about the term “wireless?” For most, it refers to WLAN-based signals or Wi-Fi, which is different than cellular signals, yet you get your cellular service from a wireless carrier. Go figure. Throw in a Mi-Fi hotspot and now you’ve thoroughly blurred that line. Trying to help my in-laws troubleshoot a problem when they call both their cell phones and their land-line devices “cordless phones,” is an exercise in first trying to determine to which piece of equipment they’re actually referring. I told them if they wanted their grandchildren to visit their beach house more frequently, they should “get the Internet” out there. I don’t think either of them has ever touched a computer, and I considered torturing them by asking whether they wanted a wireless B/G router for less money, or did they want to spend a little more for a dual-band 802.11n router. I was kind.
I think that the city of Mobile is in a very unique position to capitalize on its name. Just think – a healthcare provider organization could rename itself “Mobile Health,” though what impact on web search results that would have, I’m unsure. The city could attract all sorts of new IT start-ups with a “Mobile is Mobile” campaign. They could forge a sister city relationship with Carry-le-Rouet in France (the English translation has more to do with a spinning wheel, but it was the only location I could find with a synonym for mobile in the name).
The folks in the manufactured housing industry, aka mobile homes, really need to work on their image, as they often appear to be anything but mobile. Maybe they could put a few of them together, offer primary and specialty care, and be known as Mobile Health Homes. If they did it in Alabama, they could call it Mobile Mobile Health Homes. And if they then developed a patient-facing smartphone app, it could be called Mobile Mobile Health Homes Mobile Health.
Don’t worry – I did it for you. I just slapped my face.
The views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.
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