mHealth Summit Day 1 12/5/11

Today was a fitting introduction to the mHealth Summit. A couple of interesting keynotes followed by a full day of presentations across the various topics was in line with what I expected. The event is large with about 3,500 attendees. It’s being hosted at the Gaylord Resort, which can be accurately described as Disney for conferences.


The event kicked off with keynotes from Secretary Sebelius and Eric Topol, MD, of West Wireless Institute. Secretary Sebelius highlighted progress and spoke to the breakneck pace of mobile health app development. Nothing really new or revolutionary in her talk, but at least she sees enough value in the space to be presenting here.

Topol had an interactive demo that illustrated several cool technologies, including mobile ultrasound and wireless sensors. I thought the talk was very good and Topol was passionate, although I was told by several people after that he delivers that same presentation almost every week. Topol also announced his new ebook called The Creative Destruction of Medicine. Not surprisingly if you read or hear him speak, but apparently the book predicts massive changes for healthcare based on collection of big data on patients.

Beyond those talks, the panels I attended were mixed in terms of quality. I was surprised to see the number of AV issues for presenters, especially at a conference this size and at a location like this. Speakers were already rushing through presentations developed for a one-hour session in the allotted 10-12 minutes, so a 2-3 minute wait to get slides loaded was not ideal. Embedded videos didn’t work, either.

One of the more interesting panel discussions I sat in on was about gaming in health. The panel was adamant about the potential power of games, citing statistics about general game usage that were a little bit skewed to help the argument. Games have potential, but we need to be realistic about what they can and can’t do.

The best question (or at least the loudest) came from Doug Goldstein, a London-based physician who was defensive about why healthcare games should be created in a vacuum rather than leveraging gaming companies to do it. It’s a valid point: why not “healthify” successful games rather than “gamify” healthcare apps and services?

As expected, the exhibit hall is overflowing with vendors, almost all of which seem to be domestic. The biggest booths belong to the carriers (Qualcomm, Verizon, and AT&T) and feature their integrated partners.

The startup pavilion is interesting to see what is getting attention and early-stage funding. Lots of new companies targeting transitions in care, health messaging, fitness, and personal health mobile tracking. I spoke with several and will devote more to them in a later post.

The above picture didn’t really come out the way I wanted it but it was taken at the Qualcomm/Rock Health event last night. The party was put on for the launch of Qualcomm Life and its first product called 2net, a "platform and hub… intended to transfer, store, convert and display medical device data." 2net is center stage at the exhibit hall with tons of examples of apps and services that have already been integrated into the platform. I’ll get a picture of that today.

Qualcomm announced today the launch of a new $100 million Qualcomm Life Fund specifically focused on wireless health. The portfolio already includes Sotera Wireless, Telcare, AliveCor, Cambridge Temperature Concepts, and WorkSmart Labs.

Lots of other mobile and wireless companies have been making announcements to coincide with the summit and I’ll feature those in another post later Tuesday. Overall I’m still a little overwhelmed by the breadth of content at the event. There is something for everybody with an interest in mHealth, although the focus is more on consumer health despite the HIMSS X.0 track focused on providers.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups.

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