mHealth Summit Day 2 12/6/11

Pilotitis \pi lo ti tis \: (1) mass proliferation of pilots without scale; (2) a common ailment of mobile health.

I heard the term this morning from a trauma surgeon from Maine who asked a panel about the problem with mHealth programs being so disconnected. I thought it was an apt description for the state of mhealth. When I Googled it, several of the top hits related to the mobile health industry.

While we continue to talk and hype the potential of mobile or connected health, the reality from the mHealth Summit is that very little in the mobile health space has been taken to scale with a proven business model. This is a natural progression, as it takes time for technology and services in healthcare to be tested, researched, and accepted widely. It takes even longer for the payment system to catch up.

If we are going to see more scaling of mHealth programs domestically, it’s going to be driven by the carriers. Verizon, Qualcomm, Sprint, and AT&T are actively engaging partners and trying to build the connected health ecosystems to empower patients with personalized feedback and support and to give providers powerful data and population health tools.

I was really looking forward to the Super Session today Mobile Health in the Clinical Enterprise. The session highlighted mobile efforts internationally (Apollo in India) and domestically. Joseph Kvedar offered up that doctors may not be the center of the universe, a statement that I expected to get applause from the audience, but didn’t. Kvedar highlighted progress at the Center for Connected Health to scale remote video consults using common video services like Skype and FaceTime. When asked about security, he said patients just need to be made aware of the some of the insecurities before using the remote services, analogous to the days of health e-mail before secure e-mail.

Another recurring theme of the Super Session was the lack of mobile tools to assist patients and providers to make joint health decisions. It’s a valid point, but more needs to be done to integrate providers into this process so they are ready to leverage these tools during short visits. These tools and this new extra patient data are extremely valuable, but doctors haven’t been trained to use them and don’t necessarily trust them.

The afternoon included a marathon venture session sponsored by HIMSS, with an hour on financing, two hours on startup pitches, and another hour on strategic partners. The discussions on financing and strategic partners weren’t great, but the startup pitches were interesting. Each startup got eight minutes to present their company and products.

One of the most interesting startups presenting was Transclick. It offers real-time translation services for mobile phones and can be implemented into apps and platforms using the Transclick API. It’s very cool technology that I imagine has the potential to lower the cost of language services and ease the scale of virtual health services.

As with most conferences, the real value is connecting with attendees. I’ve been surprised by the diverse groups I’m meeting.I think it highlights the growth of the conference and the interest in mobile health. All the major payers are well represented and I’ve also met reps for funds for pharma and payers. It’s exciting to see all the interest and resources flowing into mobile health, but it will be better when we start seeing more scale and fewer pilots.

The lounge in the main lobby where the nightly tree lighting and Dreamworks characters dance the night away is where most of the action of the conference seems to be. It’s a bizarre scene, with business discussions set against a backdrop of Christmas and Santa.

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

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