mHealth Summit 2012 Recap

January 8, 2013 Michael Kahn

We’ve already seen the effects of mobile technology ripple through media and retail verticals. Everyday, we hear more and more about the rise of mCommerce, and how innovative apps like Flipboard or Pulse are changing the way we read. Heck, we’ve even had a chance to contribute to some of these changes.

However, there’s one particular vertical that we think is going to become much more efficient and streamlined: health. As Xtreme Labs’ mobile health expert, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s mHealth Summit conference. Here’s my recap of mHealth Summit 2012:

What Goes into Making an Extraordinary mHealth App?

David Lee Scher from Happtique moderated a panel featuring Anne Giles Clelland, Juhan Sonin, Barbara Spanton, and David Windhausen on building extraordinary mobile health apps. This particularly resonates with us because of its direct relevance to mobile apps. The qualities of an outstanding mHealth app include:

  • Information Accuracy: How accurate is the diagnosis? Is it often correct?
  • Beneficial: What value does it contribute?
  • Easy to use: Is it both patient-centric and provider-centric? Does it make medical care providers’ lives more simple or more complex?
  • Integrated into Lifestyle: Is it passive, or does it require a major transition?
  • Real-time Tracking and Archives: Does it do both?


One example that stood out is Windhausen’s Allora Health app, a communications platform built specifically for the pharmaceutical industry.

Another notable app is Coranet, which is a health record is on your phone. Information can be manually input into your phone or mobile device, and will be available for any health care providers in emergency situations. Naturally, the next step would be to enable it to tap into electronic health records online.

Allora and Coranet are showing just how extraordinary the mHealth industry can be.

Challenges in Health

Patients are starting to want more flexibility in accessing their data. In his keynote, investor and entrepreneur Vinod Khosla pointed out that 80% of medical information can be digitized. The majority of physicians now carry a smartphone or tablet, and are relatively savvy with using it.

However, the problem lies not with the capabilities of data, but with privacy, integrity, and flexibility. Traditionally, there have been relatively rigid guidelines in terms of the types of information doctors have been allowed to share; for example, according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, a doctor can be sued for transferring patient information via e-mail.

AT&T’s Chief Medical Information Officer Geeta Nayyar observed that on average, a doctor’s appointment lasts eight minutes. How can they use that time to its maximum? By digitizing information, doctors and patients can dodge the usual paperwork and lower lead times. For example, instead of setting up an appointment to monitor a diabetic’s blood glucose levels, this information can be tracked, measured, and sent in a CSV before the appointment, allowing the doctor to analyze it in a fraction of the time.

Similarly, doctors will be able to pull updated digital records prior to appointments, and get a better understanding of the patient’s medical history.

Fundamentally, this is going to partially be an issue of convenience vs. privacy, a challenge that has dogged companies working with sensitive data since day one. In this case, this issue is even more crucial to address given the extremely sensitive information about health.

Nonetheless, the health system is slowly adapting to mobile infrastructure; let’s have a look at a couple of mHealth possibilities in the future.

Mobile Health Possibilities

“Computers can take on much of that diagnosis and treatment and even do these functions better than the average doctor (while considering more options and making fewer errors),” health expert Vinod Khosla writes in this op-ed piece for CNN.

Why would he suggest the use of machines? At mHealth Summit and in his op-ed piece, Khosla points out that as many as 40,500 patients die in an intensive care unit in the U.S. annually. (This is comparable to the number of deaths caused by breast cancer).

A number of factors cause this: poor processes, poor communication, and inability to stay on top of complex data. Computers are much more efficient when it comes to executing on all these tasks. For example, an app like iTriage with a checklist of symptoms could be even more accurate than a doctor.

As these devices are able to start intelligently diagnosing symptoms and connecting with each other (eg, having a pulse-reader connected to a diagnosis app), this will continue to contribute to the internet of things system that we’re watching develop.

There are so many exciting opportunities for technology to intervene with and improve upon today’s health care system. mHealth Summit was a glimpse into what could potentially be happening a decade or two down the road, and we’re extremely excited to be in a position where
we can help drive some of these changes.

For more information about some of the healthcare apps we’ve worked on, click the links below.
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