Text4Baby: "High profile" demo for mobile health

By Brian Dolan

HIStalk interviewed Voxiva Co-Founder, Chairman and President Paul Meyer this week and the result was a sprawling conversation that covered mobile phones' roles in healthcare today. Of course, the interview also included some discussion about the wireless health service, Text4Baby, that Voxiva and its partners have been quietly working on -- interestingly, Meyer told HIStalk that the "initiative isn't announced yet." While it's true that the group hasn't publicly launched the text message-powered support service for expectant mothers, news of its imminent launch has been circulating for many months.

In June we reported on a meeting in Nashville where Meyer first mentioned the Text4Baby initiative. Text4Baby was then more officially announced at a CTIA-sponsored meeting on Capitol Hill this past July when Dr. Dan Fletcher, an adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology, explained to the audience one example of a public-private mHealth partnership was "Text4Baby, [which] would allow for the delivery of periodic messages to expecting mothers reminding them of basic healthcare needs.” In September, which was the month Text4Baby was originally set to launch, we heard a rumor that the service would launch soon. Then HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hinted at the Text4Baby service during her keynote earlier this month at the mHealth Summit in D.C.

Here's how Meyer described the initiative to HIStalk (notice he does not mention it by name):

"[HIStalk:] Did you get a sense that the government really understands the difference between just making providers theoretically more efficient as opposed to actually changing health?

[Meyer:] I think certainly some people do. I think we’re working with the government on a really exciting initiative that isn’t announced yet. Secretary Sebelius alluded to it in her speech last week. It’s a major mobile health service focused on pregnancy and providing information by text messaging to pregnant women and new mothers to help make a dent in the pretty horrifying maternal and infant mortality statistics in the U.S. We’re working with the mobile phone industry through the CTIA, Johnson & Johnson, and a bunch of federal partners.

I think the HHS and the federal government partners that we’re working with really see this initiative as a very high-profile demonstration of the power of mobile phones to really improve health and impact one of the biggest health crises facing the country.

There are certainly some real believers in the government in mobile health. My advice to them has been, as the government is spending all these billions of dollars on health IT, they want to be sure that they actually do some things that are actually visible and tangible and beneficial to patients."

Be sure to check out the entire Voxiva interview over at HIStalk here