mHealth is Coming of Age

Last week I had the pleasure of attending my first mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C.

The tone and rhetoric of this year’s meeting seemed a great deal different than what I read about last year’s meeting.  Gone was the doctor bashing by keynote speakers.  Instead we heard talks like the one from NIH director Dr. Francis Collins.   His literature review showed there are only 30 published, randomized, and controlled studies of mHealth technology.  Of those studies only 6 showed that mHealth showed a statistically significant improvement in patient care. He admonished the audience to subject mHealth technology to the same rigorous, statistically relevant testing that is given to other potential advances in health care.

Bravo.  Music to my ears.  That is something everyone in mHealth needs to hear.

Other speakers and panelists shared similar views.  I was also pleased to hear several acknowledgements of the critical role physicians must take in mHealth.  Until that point I had wondered if some mHealth proponents thought they needed doctors at all.

I was delighted to meet Arthur Lane, Director of Mobile Healthcare Solutions at Verizon Wireless.  Readers of my blog may recall I (unfavorably) reviewed Verizon’s home monitoring program for congestive heart failure (CHF) patients.   After discussing with Arthur my concerns about the program I realized we were very much on the same page.  He is aware of the literature, including the Yale study showing no benefit for home monitoring of CHF patients.  He has a very grounded approach to solving the issues raised by the medical literature.  That conversation changed my opinion of the project.  I like what they are doing.

I was also a panelist in a discussion entitled “Converting to mHealth: How to Drive Change”.  We had a very spirited discussion before a standing-room-only crowd.  I was very impressed with the moderator and the other panelists as well as the questions from the audience.  Much of the discussion addressed the relationship of doctors to health IT folks and the relative role of each in driving mHealth forward.  The discussion demonstrated that this is a complex issue with emotions on both sides.  I’ll have more to say about this in a future post.

It was gratifying to come home with my faith as least partially restored.  mHealth has matured over the past year.  And perhaps my own feelings about mHealth have matured as well.