opinion


mHealth Summit 2010

ehealth-mhealth

I’ve just got back from a research trip to the m Health Summit Washington DC put on by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in collaboration with the mHealth Alliance. The summit – no doubt with great assistance from the UN Foundation part of the m Health alliance – set a noble tone for the mobile healthcare movement.

Scott Campbell, executive director and CEO, and F oundation for NIH and David Aylward, Executive Director, mHealth Alliance, introduced the event in celebratory style congratulating the culture of collaboration prevalent in mhealth. They announced an ideas sharing forum in the HUB (healthcareunbound.org) where people can reach out to one another, avoiding the common mistake of “re-inventing the wheel” in the unchartered territory of and healthcare innovation.

In addition to the GSMA as a new mHealth Alliance member, Hewlett Packard signalled a shift in membership – it has just signed as a new member to the mHealth alliance in a two year, $1m aggregate donation to help improve health care and health systems. Mhealth has now extended beyond mobile operators and NGOs and has entered the realm of the big systems integrators, computing powers and the cloud. Other indicators of mHealth uptake include an increase in mobile phone related projects by the NIH, with $36m allocated in 2009.

Speaker review

Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, US Department of Health and Human Services, gave a fantastic keynote on the potential of mobile in health. He set the tone by mentioning Text4Baby – a three year SMS reminder and prompting service for new mums in the US, and the largest mHealth service in the US with over 100,000 subs and rising following its launch only this year.

Text4Baby received a lot of attention throughout the event – it functions as a collaborative model with all CTIA carriers, and a multitude of maternal private clincs working together to provide the free service. Park went on to tackle the current unsustainable measurement of healthcare provisioning in the US – based on volume of patients seen, rather than the inherent value of health treatment provided – in terms of the patient health improvement and to the overall system in limiting re-admissions. Incentivising financial systems is key and I was hard pushed to find someone who thought that the removal of the 30 days obligatory cover for re-admissions, now paid for by the hospital/state, was a bad thing – as it suddenly puts a real financial incentive on administering care with a long tail view.

Next was data liberation. Park’s open health data campaign which sets up free online data and total IP ownership of this data, so that those who opt in can allow third parties to develop innovative solutions around this data. One example being the Blue Button Veteran scheme which allows veterans to access their PHR’s easily and intuitively. This scheme was decided upon and rolled out in less than a year, perhaps disproving the groans that regulatory frameworks and approvals are stagnating product development in the longer five to ten year framework. One can’t help thinking that these systems must now be put in place, so that the patient has a choice between “public” open data platforms for PHRs and those from Google and Microsoft becoming the standard.

Next up was a panel discussion on Cross-Sectoral Perspectives on MHealth. I thought that Dr K. Ganapathy, President, Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation, Apollo Hospitals, India set it straight when he immediately disputed the terminology of ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ health markets and economies, stating that India is one of the highest growing markets globally with a seven per cent healthcare tourist penetration.

Sanjay Kaul, Business Unit Multimedia, Ericsson put a commercial spin on things when he stressed the need to find sustainable business models (one of the key themes of the event) making mobile healthcare more than pure philanthropy or CSR.

Mwendwa Mwenesi, Phones For Health Coordinator, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Tanzania – a leading mHealth figure in the country stressed the importance of cell phones to feed back 20x more data and more accurate data than paper based field studies – something mimicked in ‘anonymous’ SMS campaigns for HIV or other disease sufferers providing more honest data capture via a device as mediator platform.

David H. Gustafson, Director, Center for Health Enhancement Systems, University of Wisconsin provided sentient and sensical soundbytes and humour throughout a sometimes misguided panel. He said he had difficulties with touch screens because of shakes, or keys, because of vision impairment – UI at source is key to improving this. (The exact sentiment reached this side of the Atlantic in September at our Industry Summit). Iconic languages can help where illiteracy is a consideration, and greater education of new systems – including getting physicians involved in work flow changes – is integral to success. Furthermore trust needs to be established – will this device do me good or do me harm? How can we stamp approve medical apps? And if networks are going to take on this service – with medical sensitivities – then perhaps the service obligations of the carrier is suddenly entirely different and includes safeguarding of life inherently?

Frederic Zussa, Director, Worldwide Strategy and Innovation at Pfizer said that the power of ICT should be to increase productivity in healthcare, and that technology should not be siloed as a barrier to this.

While Peter Drury, Director, Health and Development, Emerging Markets, Cisco agreed identifying the problem of healthcare as Silos, Systems and States – with disruptive innovations like m Health going a long way to opening up the market to the disenfranchised in the same way as mPayments has done in Kenya.


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