The 3rd Annual mHealth Summit took place from December 6-8 at the Gaylord Convention Center near Washington, DC. The summit presented by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health brings together developers, health care professionals, and government officials to talk about the science and the promise of mobile health technologies.
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius was the opening Keynote Speaker for mHealth 2011. This was her second visit to the mHealth conference. The theme of her speech was public-private partnerships to advance mHealth. She shared that the government’s role is focused on funding research and giving the private sector access to data through Data.gov. The government also has the content experts that can work with technology partners to develop health related programs and applications. She also provided an update on moving the health care system towards electronic health records (EHR). In the last two years the use of EHR has doubled from 17% to 34% and HHS has created regional extension centers to assist health clinics to adopt the technology. To end her remarks she asked the audience to imagine a future where:
- Patients can take control of their own health.
- Snapping pictures of your plate to find out how many calories are on your weight.
- Managing your health is something that you do with the help of your doctor every day and not just once a year.
On day two Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin provided lunch time remarks about the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council which is tasked with making the United States a more healthy and fit nation. She also shared how chronic disease has impacted her personally. The Council convenes cabinet level heads to provide input on the National Prevention Strategy. Some of their current initiatives include:
- Having fun with fitness
- Fitness walks
- Regional meetings
- Surgeon General’s Healthy Apps Challenge featuring apps on physical activity, healthy eating and integrative health.
Also during the Tuesday lunch, Federal Communications Commision (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted the agency’s efforts to provide an infrastructure to complement the work done by others such as HHS and the Food and Drug Administration. One of the FCC’s major initiatives is the National Broadband Plan. The plan’s goal is to build a world-class broadband infrastructure to bring high-speed Internet to all Americans. This is especially important as the use of mobile and tele-health increases and rural providers use broadband to expand the reach of their services.
The Office of National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology held a Town Hall and presented on their projects that focus on access, action, and attitude to achieve mHealth goals. Their Pledge Program ask companies who have health data, such as hospitals and labs, to pledge to make their health records available in a meaningful way to their clients. Companies also pledge to increase consumer education to ensure that clients know their information is available for personal use. Challenge.gov is a site where ONC will release several challenges to make mobile apps and tools to address health problems. To address attitudes, ONC will have series of consumer generated videos shorts under the “The I in Health IT” project where individuals talk about how access to their health information helped them manage their own disease.
The panelists in the HIV concurrent session presented information on using text to reach their various client populations. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has turned their crisis hotline into a text and chat format where they have a two way conversation about reproductive health. The other three projects showed their research results of using two-way SMS in Pakistan, Canada, and Kenya to engage clients in disease management.
In the Harnessing the Power of Social Media and Mobile Technology to Engage Consumers panel, United Healthcare, Fit Now, and Telcare presented on their mobile applications that collect data about health behaviors, such as weight loss and diabetes, and engage consumers in the management of their own care. Part of the discussion centered around using proprietary social networks vs. open networks like Twitter and Facebook to make these efforts social. The consensus was that individuals may not want to share their health challenges with people they already know, making closed social networks more effective. Panelists found that more engagement with others on these platforms makes it more likely that a person will achieve their health related goals. Fit Now has found those who have three or more friends on their Lose It platform lose more weight.
The attendance at mHealth has grown from 800 to 3,500 in just three years. There were many more innovative products, gadgets and policy issues than we could cover in this blog. As traditional providers and technology firms team up in the mobile arena, mHealth may quickly move into everyday spaces.
How soon will it be when the majority of clinicians use smartphones and other mobile devices in routine care? What mobile innovations should be on our radar? What policy issues do you think are NOT being discussed?