Customization, collaboration become bigger buzzwords but a smaller crowd at this year’s mHealth Summit

“Know me, engage me, Empower me” how HC should be delivered @HarryReynolds @IBMMobile @IBMHealthcare #mHealth14 — Sandeep Pulim (@SPulim) December 8, 2014 The conversation and feel of the mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. this week has changed since my first conference a few years ago. The panel tracks have become much more diverse to […]

The conversation and feel of the mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. this week has changed since my first conference a few years ago. The panel tracks have become much more diverse to accommodate more than eight broad and niche interests covering global health and clinical applications to more focus on standards, interoperability, consumer solutions and disease management. There was also a noticeable difference in buzz words from medication adherence that I heard so frequently last year to behavior change and care coordination. Here are four observations from the conference.

Attendance I don’t have the official numbers but the mobile health summit this year had noticeably less traffic in the exhibition area as panels became the focus of more attention. Given the numerous topic tracks I referred to, it felt like two conferences in one. All of the panels I attended and hosted were filled to capacity except for the Wednesday morning sessions. One contact at the conference chalked it up to conference fatigue.

With so many digital health conferences and even regional ones vying for attention it can’t help but take a toll on some of these events. (Full disclosure: MedCity Media, of which MedCity News is a part, runs three). It would be great if there were a way to better integrate the exhibition section. It would also help if there were a way to have sessions in the morning and time for the exhibition area in the afternoon so people like me didn’t constantly feel they were missing something.

The rise of the corporates There was more of a corporate feel to the conference this year, particularly as retail drugstore chains have moved more aggressively into the healthcare space. It also indicates a shift of mobile health moving  closer to the mainstream. Walgreens’ kick off of the conference was telling with Chief Medical Officer Harry Leider delivering the keynote. It used that perch to announce its move into telemedicine It showed what we’ve been seeing all year — a desire by drugstores to be considered more than a supporting actor in the relationship between payers and providers. Walgreens’ profile wasn’t limited to the panels. It was also on display on the exhibition floor where its pavilion hosted several smaller digital health collaboration partners.

Buzzwords/themes Last year I heard patient engagement and medication adherence frequently. This year, conversations were tailored around how to develop tools that patients will use. Patient engagement continues to be a hot topic but there’s more interest in quantifying it. Customizing solutions around patient needs, particularly with health literacy and access, were also some of the buzzwords and themes around the conference. Developing ways to help patients better understand their condition and care plan, be it through interactive and virtual reality experiences like those of Biolucid. Using guided questions to customize information like New York Presbyterian Hospital’s adoption of Medivizor for an online health library was another example. The company produced research on cancer patients to better understand how different subsectors look for and perceive information. Behavior change, mental health and care coordination were a bigger part of the conversation. Collaboration between health systems, payers and public health groups with early and growth stage companies was also a running theme. The logistics of providers implementing technology like telemedicine was also a hot topic of conversation — particularly with drugstores adding telemedicine partners. But the reimbursement issue means it still has relatively small adoption.

Practical tools to make collaboration easier Partners Healthcare’s Center for Connected Health rolled out a set of customized surveys to help startups, device manufacturers and investors better understand what they want and how they use mobile technologies. CCompass aims those questions at a research panel of U.S. adult health care consumers, patients, caregivers and health care professionals. The questions are intended to support the design, testing and implementation of connected health technologies and products.