mHealth Summit Roundup May 30, 2009Posted by chetan in : 3G, 4G, AORTA, ARPU, BRIC, Carriers, Strategy, US Wireless Market, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , trackback
Earlier this month, I had the good fortune of participating in 3 great events - TiECON, Future in Review, and mHealth. While the 9 straight days on the road were exhausting, I thoroughly enjoyed doing the panels, attending various panels, and meeting several interesting folks in the process. This post is first in the series of Conference roundups.
Last year, I had the good fortune of working with the UN Foundation on a paper “Mobile Services Evolution 2008-2018.” It was presented at the Rockefeller Foundation sponsored Health conference in Bellagio, Italy in July. Since then the two foundations along with many other partners have progressed on creating the mHealth Alliance which was announced in Barcelona earlier this year. Last week, the group convened in San Francisco for its first meeting and I had the privilege to be one of the participants in this initial working group. The goal was to bring together some leading authorities from academic, industry, NGOs, governmental, foundations and others to share and discuss the way forward. Here are some initial thoughts on the summit and the program as a whole.
More interesting things first. I am always more excited about the demos and meeting new companies than listening to prepared material. The areas where mobile makes the biggest impact is in: information dissemination, data gathering and transmit, compliance, monitoring and diagnosis, training and education. While progress in any one of these will be great, progress in various areas will impact different set of demographics and countries. For example, while sophisticated measurement and transmit might become normal course in the developed nations (at the consumer level), due to lack of infrastructure, education, awareness, and compliance are the biggest areas of improvement in the developing world.
Below are the pictures of the various devices for capturing various medical information that can be transmitted over wireless. First one is a point of care immunoassays that a company called Silicon Biodevices has developed which can quickly detect viruses. These can be eventually be sold in stores for consumers to conduct tests on their own.
The second device is a microscope attached to the camera which can take the image of the sample being looked at and transmit via MMS or email, again, very handy for remote diagnosis.
The third device is a pulsometer which can measure pulse, heart rate, O2/CO2, etc. and then using the netbook can transmit of sync up data to a medical facility.
These tools are not going to be available to consumers in the developing world anytime soon but they can improve care at remote hospitals or point-of-gathering and can allow a visiting physician to quickly detect, monitor, and analyze results w/o the setup of a professional lab.
There were a number of leading technology players represented - Intel, Qualcomm, Cisco, Microsoft, Google, and others who are looking to push their solutions and platforms to take advantage of this emerging opportunity. I think the lowest hanging fruit is services using SMS which is a universal tool for communication. A startup in Ghana is using SMS codes to counter drug counterfeits which can help save 20% of the drug costs for the country.
As I said in my paper, Mobile does two things really well - compress time and distance - and thus connect, enable, and empower participants in the healthcare ecosystem to reduce costs and errors, and increase productivity, access, and efficiency.
There was a lot of conversation about “reuse” of knowledge and tools and inclusion of various players in the ecosystem so that the solutions take off the ground quickly. While there was a lot of optimism to do a lot of good in the world, there was a lingering skepticism of how all the talk translates into actual results. The bureaucracy and infighting is stifling progress and the solutions are not always replicated easily. In the case of mobile, without strong involvement with the countries operators, many of these initiatives won’t go too far or fall short of expectations. It is good that Vodafone is deeply involved in the process and can influence its peers.
There was debate about whether you do the technical work (software) on the ground or build solutions beforehand. As usual, it depends on the circumstances of a particular situation and project. My belief is that each country should have a platform available for launching national health services. Governments should either enable the process by working hand-in-hand or fund and get out of the way of the private industry. Just like roads and electric grids, health platforms should be a matter of national importance and unless there is this realization, the fragmentation of technology will continue.
Another area of improvement is data sharing which various projects seldom do and as such the cycle is reinvented when people could be learning from each other. MHealth Alliance is taking up the challenge to foster the growth and coordinate the ecosystem. I wish them nothing but the best and will try to contribute when and where I can. Overall, a good start to the process.