'Lollapalooza of m-health' carries inspiring but sober messages

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I'm sitting in a packed ballroom with perhaps 2,000 of my closest friends at the Washington Convention Center, scarfing down rubber chicken and awaiting Bill Gates, a featured speaker at the mHealth Summit. I say "a featured speaker" instead of "the featured speaker" because there have been and will continue to be a parade of luminaries on the stage during this three-day event.

Media mogul-turned-philanthropist Ted Turner spoke this morning while a certain FierceMobileHealthcare editor was busy putting this issue together after hosting a terrific Fierce-produced breakfast panel on telemedicine. Check for Dan Bowman's coverage of that event elsewhere in this issue. The event was broadcast on the web and we'll have archived video available soon.

Also in this issue, we highlight some of the comments of NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park from Monday. Not reported in that story was the fact that Park said the gathering looked like the Lollapalooza of m-health, with its enthusiastic, festival-like crowd and diversity of the program. (Hemp clothing and henna tattoos not available.)

Park, whom, along with federal CTO Aneesh Chopra--also present today--I like to refer to as the anti-bureaucrats, drew some real gasps when he highlighted the success of the (fittingly) nine-month-old "Text4Baby" program by saying that 101,962 mothers had enrolled in the prenatal-care effort as of Monday morning.

Turner, once known as Captain Outrageous and the Mouth of the South, apparently provided the reality check. I'm told he spoke about how producers of m-health technology need to understand their customers, be they hospitals, health professionals or patients.

Similarly, Dr. Louis Hochheiser, medical director of clinical policy development for Humana, expressed his wish that the conference was about learning patient behaviors via m-health. Mobile health could provide a means for changing behaviors by, say, telling people where they can get tests they need. "For many of the things we do, we don't have any evidence or the evidence isn't very good," Hochheiser said. And there aren't many good ways to transfer necessary information to the people who need it.

Which is exactly why David H. Gustafson, emeritus research professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's College of Engineering, noted the potential of m-health to shorten lengthy timelines. He mentioned the five-year process of conducting clinical trials of new medications and devices and the unconscionably long 17 years it typically takes for new breakthroughs and scientific evidence to find its way into regular clinical practice.

Yeah, aficionados of mobile technology don't like to wait. - Neil