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Award Funding Provides First Hand Look at mHealth Summit

Guest Author: Maureen “Molly Knapp, Research Support & Education Librarian at Tulane University Rudolph Matas Library of the Health Sciences

mHealth Summit Logo

In December 2012 I had the opportunity to attend the mHealth Summit in Washington, DC, thanks to the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, South Central Region’s (NN/LM SCR’s) Professional Development Award. The mHealth Summit is an annual event sponsored by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), with strategic support from mHIMSS (a division of HIMSS interested in mobile tech), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the mHealth Alliance (an international group with a global focus on the use of mobile devices in health care).

So what is mHealth, you wonder? According to the mHealth Alliance FAQ page:

Mobile Health, or mHealth, can be defined as medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, tablets, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and other wireless devices.

Some uses of mHealth include:
• Education and Awareness – Messaging in support of public health and behavioral change campaigns
• Diagnostic and Treatment Support – Mobile phone as point-of-care device
• Disease and Epidemic Outbreak Tracking – Sending and receiving data on disease incidence, outbreaks and public health emergencies
• Supply Chain Management – Using mobile solution to improve stock-outs and combat counterfeiting
• Remote Data Collection – Collecting real-time patient data with mobile applications
• Remote Monitoring – Maintaining care giver appointments or ensuring medication regime adherence
• Healthcare Worker Communication and Training – Connecting health workers with sources of information

Rest assured, all of these topics and more were addressed at the 2012 mHealth Summit. One of the more provocative keynote sessions I attended was Vinod Khosla’s “Can we have Health and Healthcare without Doctors?” Khosla is a venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems. His answer – yes – is detailed in the article “Technology will replace 80% of what doctors do“.

Another interesting panel discussion addressed patient advocacy, featuring Donna Cryer, president & CEO of the American Liver Foundation (@DCpatient) & and Mary Anne Sterling (@SterlingHIT), a health IT consultant and family caregiver. (On a side note, there is a growing role for librarians in patient advocacy, as future MLA programming may soon reveal.)

ZombiePox Game Logo

My favorite, final ‘find’ of the summit was in the Gaming Pavilion in the exhibit hall. There I discovered Tiltfactor Games, specifically a game called ZombiePox, which explores group immunity and the need to vaccinate…WITH ZOMBIES. Tiltfactor was demoing an iPad version of the game, which is unavailable at this time. (Perhaps it was too infected?) With gamification a growing trend in libraries, awareness of companies providing educational, health related games is definitely relevant for collection development. (Also: zombies.)

Overall, the mHealth Summit was heavier on entrepreneurship and investment opportunities and lighter on science. I attended several contributed paper sessions that were hit and miss. Honestly, I don’t know that many librarians would find this type of summit useful to their everyday practice, as it was geared more towards bringing together business and industry. However, for those interested in trends in mobile health technologies and its application to public health and health care, or those who have a really cool app or website in need of a wealthy investor, the mHealth Summit is definitely your scene.

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