The 'Uberization' of Healthcare: The Forthcoming Legal Storm Over Mobile Health Technology's Impact on the Medical Profession
The nascent field of mobile health technology is still very small but is predicted to grow exponentially as major technology companies such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and even Facebook have announced mobile health initiatives alongside influential healthcare provider networks. Given the highly regulated nature of healthcare, significant legal barriers stand in the way of mobile health’s potential ascension. I contend that the most difficult legal challenges facing this industry will be restrictive professional licensing and scope of practice laws. The primary reason is that mobile health threatens to disrupt historical power dynamics within the healthcare profession that have legally enshrined physicians as the primary decision-makers and economic earners within the healthcare industry. In the near term, mobile health represents a potential redistribution of medical authority and financial power to technology companies and lesser-trained medical providers (nurses, physician assistants, etc.) at the expense of physicians. In the long-term, mobile health threatens to transform healthcare into a primarily “providerless” service, in the same fashion mobile taxi app company Uber envisions “driverless” taxis. Therefore, I conclude that while mobile health holds out tantalizing potential to improve upon the cost and accessibility of healthcare, there will be significant resistance to licensing and scope of practice reforms until broader political economy questions concerning the long-term viability of the medical profession are answered.