1. mHealth gets personal. The launch of the Personal Connected Health Alliance, anchored by HIMSS, the mHealth Summit and the Continua Health Alliance, finally moves the needle away from the traditional health setting and points it directly at the consumer. “Healthcare is clearly moving in the direction of greater consumer engagement and delivery outside of traditional care settings,” said H. Stephen Lieber, president and CEO of HIMSS WorldWide. That means new methods of care and health management that reach the consumer wherever he or she may be – the home, the office, the gym, the car. Just as important, these tools have to fit into the user's lifestyle and be attractive enough to merit continued use.
2. Privacy and security are big concerns. Some educational sessions at HIMSS 14 were more popular than others. A session titled "Securing Patient Data in a Mobilized World," which took place Monday, Feb. 23, right around lunchtime, filled the room to the point that nearly every seat was taken. A rough guess put the crowd at more than 300. The session, led by Andrea Bradshaw and Sadik Al-Abdulla of CDW, focused on the problems and pitfalls of protecting personal health information when using mobile devices. Clearly, at a time when data breaches seem to be occurring every week and every doctor, nurse and patient has access to a smartphone or a tablet or both, the urgency is there.
3. Payers are paying attention. As Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said during the HIMSS 14 opening keynote, the goal is to create a healthier nation while cutting wasteful expenditures. That means caring for the chronically ill, investing in wellness and aligning incentives. Part of the Aetna network is the mobile app developer iTriage, whose CEO and co-founder, Wayne Guerra, laid out an action plan that focuses on giving consumers the tools they need to manage their health. "I think they want transparency," he said. "They want the answers to their questions." If you push that information to them through mobile devices, giving them the facts when they need them, they'll make better decisions.
4. EMRs need help. Whereas in past years the industry was focused on getting doctors to embrace EMRs, now they have to learn how to use them. While EMRs are great at capturing and storing data, they're just now being manipulated to make that data useful to doctors. Some of the more progressive vendors are championing mobile EMR platforms, enabling clinicians to access information on the go, rather than while stuck at a computer station. Some are pulling in data from wearable devices. Others are integrating with population health management platforms and dabbling in business analytics. As the EMR evolves to take advantage of mHealth, it's becoming more attractive, too.
5. Form and fashion. CES has been trumpeting wearable technology for years, and now healthcare is catching on. From fitness bands that track vital signs to sensor-embedded clothing to Google Glass, the market is filled with innovative ways to meld fashion and healthcare. The exhibit hall offered many examples not only of wearable sensors, but of the connecting technology that links them to caregivers and EMRs. Might we someday see an mHealth fashion show?
6. The connected home. We've seen this in the senior care space so far, with mHealth and telehealth companies touting a combination of home-based monitoring and social engagement platforms to connect seniors at home with their caregivers. Some, like IDEAL LIFE and ADT, are even partnering with home security companies. At HIMSS 14, Cisco showcased Lake Nona, a 7,000-acre community in Orlando that was launched some 25 years ago by Disney and now features campuses of some of the top healthcare organizations in the state (as well as the VA). This community of some 3,000 homes (with another 7,000 planned) is a testing ground for the Intelligent Home concept – and mHealth in general. Thad Seymour, senior vice president for the Lake Nona Medical City, expects this "living laboratory and greenfield at the same time" says IT is seen as a utility, just like water, sewer and electricity. So while the HIMSS Exhibit Hall features a connected hospital pavilion now, will it soon also feature a connected home pavilion?
7. Making things easy. The key to mHealth success, particularly in dealing with people with chronic conditions, is making it as easy as possible for the consumer. The more effort it takes for a consumer to use, say, a blood glucose monitor, the less likely he or she will continue to use it. At HIMSS 17 Jonathan C. Javitt, MD, Telcare's CEO and vice chairman, showed off the Telcare BGM, a cellular-enabled blood glucose monitor that automatically transmits blood glucose values to caregivers – no need for the user to pull out a smartphone and text-message the readings. As more and more mHealth companies find ways to work their products into the everyday lives of consumers – and that was a prevalent theme in the exhibit hall this year – acceptance and adoption of mHealth will increase.