Notes from London: Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit

By Brian Dolan
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Some quick hits and memorable quotes from Informa's second annual Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit in London, UK this week:

Chuck Parker, Executive Director, Continua Alliance: "Right now the market is focused on devices and services for chronic disease management. But longer term, we need to shift that focus onto supporting people who are healthy and well, too. We need to provide them with the right kind of care so that they don't have to interact with the healthcare system. We need to help them stay well."

Dr. Henry Potts, Senior Lecturer, UCL, UK: "The reality is that extra data is not what doctors want. Most people still can't email their doctor, so let's not imagine we will be texting our doctor any time soon. Doctors are also worried about liability issues that arise for being "always on." Also, if a doctor is always on and patients seem to always have easy access to them -- how does that promote self-management?" Another challenge is that mHealth like healthcare is really a variety of niches, Potts said. There is no "mass market" for mHealth. Half of the players in mHealth also have no economic motivation or interest at stake, so it's not going to generate a lot of interest from the medical community. mHealth service developers need to show an economic as well as a medical advantages to their offerings, Potts advised.

Brian O'Connor, Chair, European MHealth Alliance (EuMHA): "Are we in competition with Continua? I'll say this, and not just because Continua is in the room, we are very keen to have a strong relationship with them. We don't see ourselves as competing with them on standards [or guidelines] for connected health. That's not our goal. EuMHA started in June and already we are having conversations with groups in Asia and the Middle East. Individuals in different parts of the world really want to understand what each other is doing. There is a lack of knowing what's going on in another market. We saw a need for leadership in this industry and that's why we founded EuMHA."

Ari Isa Muhammad, Director, Economic Planning and Coordinator, Millennium Development Goals, Office of the Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria: "In Nigeria, 47 percent of the population has access to healthcare. There is one doctor for every 1,170 people in urban areas and one doctor for every 4,470 people in rural areas. For mHealth, we need to move beyond the SMS, because it is important that you know what is wrong with a patient before you try to treat them. We need diagnostic devices in the field. This is very essential. Microscopes are expensive and can cost between $5,000 and $10,000, but there are mobile-enabled microscopes that have already been proven to work in labs. They are being tested in parts of India now... There are also opportunities at the high end of the market in Nigeria. There is an opportunity to offer services like real time patient monitoring to the five to 10 percent of the population with access to private healthcare. The opportunity is there, it's not just about the low end."

Steven Dodsworth, Head of Life Sciences, Highlands & Islands Enterprise: The Center for Health Sciences in Inverness, Scotland includes the local NHS sitting alongside the private sector and four universities. Ten years ago there was nothing there and now we have an active sector, including one large company: [Johnson & Johnson's] Lifescan. Our next project is to convert a 200 acre site into a new university campus. Originally, we chose a theme of "wellbeing" for the institution, but that's such a nebulous concept. We weren't getting anywhere quickly. Terminology is a very powerful thing. We decided to focus on "Digital P4" instead: Digital healthcare focused on prevention, prediction, participation and personal health. Digital P4 will include mHealth and services on the Web.

Thomas Brennan, Research Assistant, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Oxford University: "The barriers facing mHealth and it’s impact on health in developing countries can be generalized as being infrastructural, regulatory and project sustainability. The physical infrastructural barriers include network coverage, access to hardware, security, access to electricity and clean water, lack of medical supplies. The regulatory barriers include medical regulatory approval, taxation and licensing. The barriers that affect project sustainability include financial sustainability, technology adoption (language and illiteracy) and shortage of trained medical staff."

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