During the first week of December, over 4,000 people from the health care and technology areas gathered together in Washington D.C. to meet about mobile health, mHealth. Everyone from developers to physicians attended the summit to learn and discuss how mHealth can and should be implemented in our systems that are about to all change due to health care reform.


Globally, mHealth is more than apps and devices. Everywhere I went at the conference, there was another story of how simple access to a mobile phone in some countries is revolutionizing how caregivers provide health services… being able to make a phone call saves lives.  In the United States where phones are readilly available and around 50% of all Americans have a smartphone, the capabilities to provide advanced care are massive. Several companies presented their products for e-prescribing, managing patients and even front-end portals for patients to manage their own care.


One story that stuck with me was from Don Jones from Qualcomm, who spoke at a keynote session. His son is part of a research trial for a new FDA approved portable ECG monitor that is basically an iPhone case. His son was experiencing a cardiac event and was able to capture his own ECG results and contact the local emergency department to get an e-mail address and send his test results before he arrived. The patient initiated his own action plan and the organization was expected to react in response upon his arrival. This is just an example of how health care is going to change with new technology. Patients are going to have the tools to manage their own health and expect providers to keep up and follow their instruction as a more educated and capable patient is the way of the future.


Is a person in need of health care a patient, consumer or both? The question came to my mind as non-profits called people patients while for-profit companies called people consumers. Outside of the health care industry, change happens constantly at a supercharged pace, and the idea of calling a patient a consumer comes from other industries vying for a chance to get their foot in the door of the health care system. These companies are ready to move at a faster pace, satisfying the “consumer” and giving them a way to manage their own health.

Imagine 10 years ago… what kind of phone was the “hot item” to have? Now everyone walks around with devices that are more powerful than the computers were at that time. The industry needs to be able to catch up to this pace and mold/change to fit the need we have today… mHealth is an opportunity for this.


One of the biggest drivers for change will be health care reform and the need for cost savings. Prevention is key… as well as lowering re-admission rates. One of the best ways to do this is to provide patients a way to manage their own health and a way to monitor these patients indirectly, until the need for intervention arises.

One story from the conference involves a telehealth device being installed into patients’ homes to provide for daily checkups and a direct line to a caregiver to elderly, chronic patients. In one case, the patient cost the health system over $100,000 per year and after the device was installed that number fell to around $2000.

The time is coming where mHealth is going to be a part of everyone’s daily lives but a lot of kinks need to be worked out first, including the integration piece, compatibility issues and the simple fact that a patient is not going to use 4 different solutions to manage their health… There is no shortage in development and interest in the industry though, and I’m certain the change is inevitable.