As mobile health gains more prominence and critical mass, it’s no surprise that the topic will merit increased attention at the health information technology industry’s premier gathering, the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference.
The HIMSS11 conference kicks off Sunday, Feb. 20, in Orlando and includes more than 400 education sessions before wrapping up four days later. More than 29,000 professionals — from physicians to IT executives to investors — are expected to attend, according to HIMSS.
The conference includes several sessions and events focusing on mobile health, and for good reason. The U.S. mobile health industry is expected to grow to $4.6 billion in 2014, more than triple its value just five years earlier, according to a 2010 report from consulting firm CSMG. With 80 percent of physicians expected to be using smart phones by 2012, software vendors that want doctors’ business will increasingly need to offer their services on mobile platforms like phones and tablets.
It’s not just IT firms that are getting into the mobile health business. Pharmaceutical giants like Merck and Novartis have invested in mobile phone apps to help patients manage diabetes or keep records of vaccinations.
One HIMSS session sure to be of interest to attendees who want to learn more about mobile health is scheduled for Monday morning and will be co-hosted by Brian Dolan, editor of MobiHealthNews, a must-read for mobile health enthusiasts.
“In the past, HIMSS hasn’t had much of a focus on mobile,” Dolan said.”For the first time, you could say that mobile is going to be one of the core themes of the event. People are talking about it a lot more this year.”
Dolan stressed that while it’s hard to arrive at a precisely agreed-upon definition of what mobile health is, it’s certainly more than just apps for smart phones and tablets. One of the “purest” definitions, Dolan said, is simply “wireless technology’s impact on health and healthcare.” That can include anything from diabetics’ portable blood glucose meters that wirelessly send data, or even medical instruments that can plug into smart phones to gather and transmit patient data.
Dolan said his presentation is intended for people who don’t have a deep knowledge of mobile health. He intends to cut through all the mobile health statistics and reports that are haphazardly thrown around (such as a couple in this article) and help attendees make sense of what’s really happening in the market today, and what sort of potential the future holds for the industry.
“I hope [attendees] will walk away with a better ability to cut through some of the mobile health hype and be armed with a set of more useful industry metrics,” Dolan said.
Another mobile health event attendees might want to catch is a Tuesday “executive breakfast” hosted by FierceHealthIT. The breakfast will feature a panel discussion on mobile health’s role in achieving “meaningful use,” a standard of electronic medical records usage that hospitals and doctors must attain to be eligible for health IT subsidies from the federal government.
Rik Vandevenne, a director with venture firm River Cities Capital Funds in North Carolina, is an investor who’ll be attending HIMSS with mobile health on his mind. Vandevenne said he’s “intrigued” by mobile health and will be scouting out a few companies at the conference, though he acknowledged that the mobile health sector is still in a stage of relative infancy.
“The space is appealing because when done right, it can have a significant impact on improving patient outcomes and reducing costs,” he said. “Figuring out the right revenue models will be key for companies in this space.”
Among the panelists at the FierceHealthIT breakfast is John Moore, managing partner of Chilmark Research. A HIMSS veteran, Moore wrote a blog post on preparing for the conference that should be required reading for first-time attendees.
“If nothing else, HIMSS affords one the opportunity to get a pulse on the industry if one just ignores most of the loud pronouncements plastered all over the front of the various booths and in those all-too-common theaters,” Moore wrote. “Having been to countless events such as this in numerous market sectors, the pulse is found behind the scenes, behind the posters, in the hallways in casual conversations, in the questions that you overhear being asked, in private conversations with key people in the industry.”