Mobile Health Expo: pointer to a ‘real world’ future

The desire to connect. Because this was a first-year, smaller conference in a very large place, the Caesars Palace Convention Center (which was the opposite of your usual drafty convention hall), the manageable size and select group facilitated mixing and at-length discussion for the hundreds there, whether in the main expo room, in the (endless) hallways going from session to session, or at the coffee breaks or social events after the program. Practical connecting and partnering was a distinct thread in most of the sessions and keynotes.

It’s a huge market, but it’s time to find a place. Three major and competitive wireless companies–T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint–spoke together at the opening keynote on how they are targeting the healthcare market (quite differently). There are still a lot of ‘solutions’ looking for homes and that overlap. One approach–see ‘desire to connect’.  What was also clear:  mobile health is literally ‘ageless’–Stage 1 diabetes youngsters, expectant moms, young Iraq/Afghanistan vets, 50+ with chronic conditions, independent 65+ adults–and doable in the developing world.

‘Early days’ people are shifting their efforts—and being rewarded, finally. Pioneers like Dale Alverson, M.D., who heads up the American Telemedicine Association and University of New Mexico’s Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research, are seeing their models—in this case, rural telemedicine–recognized, duplicated and redeveloped not only in the US but internationally (Nepal–and Iran).  Other commercial products like GrandCare Systems and healthimo, in market for some years, are moving forward technically, developing and finding their markets.

‘Lather, rinse, repeat’ discussions of security, privacy, integration, supply chain. None are whiz bang or ‘sexy’ but a sure indicator of readiness of selling in the real world.

Dealing with government, policies and politics—from FDA to FCC, DOD to VA, CDC to NIH, HHS to CMS— yes, we are going to have to deal with them, yes, we will need to manage the process, no, it will not ‘save us’. Key indicators:  the keynotes and breakout sessions on public policy and the aptly captioned ‘what you don’t know will hurt you’; the presence of counsels like Bill Jones and Fred McClure; the honest assessments from distinguished veterans in the process such as Ward Casscells, M.D., lately Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs). The industry is also dealing with another wild card–EHRs, which are on an unachievable two-year track–which further complicate ‘where does the data go, who actions it’ (Q 3, 4 of the Four Big Questions).

As one keynoter put it, we have entered the Wild West.  But I would qualify that we are beyond the true ‘wild’ part of empty prairies, cattle roundups and cowboys shooting up all in sight, to building towns with a sheriff, boarded sidewalks, a semi-respectable saloon, the railroad….and look…aren’t those the Harvey Girls arriving to open up a restaurant?

We’ll be exploring the town in the coming week or so.

[Final Ed. Note:  Before writing the above, I deliberately avoided any other coverage of Mobile Health Expo to this point (FierceMobileHealthcare—Wendy Johnson and Neil Versel—and Healthcare IT News’ Mike Miliard were reporting thru most days)—but their comments will be referenced into later articles.]