The excitement and energy around the notion of mHealth and its potential was hard to miss in the 2012 mHealth Summit with Farzad Mostashari, the ONC chief at the time, giving one of the Keynote talks. His passion for the field was contagious and left me wanting to go back and learn more. The 2013 mHealth Summit was on target this year with an increased focus on policy and interoperability. It was fantastic to see Matthew Quinn from the FCC, Jacob Reider from the ONC, and Jeffrey Shuren from the FDA share one stage on a panel discussing real world challenges to mHealth adoption, and the roles each organization is playing to help alleviate the hurdles. The key topics that resonated for me were additional focus on semantics, and the fact that all three organizations are focused on cybersecurity, and interoperability. At one point in the conversation there was reference to spectrum being oxygen when it comes to mHealth proliferation.
I had the pleasure of being involved with mHIMSS since its inception, and contributing to the original mHIMSS roadmap. The section I focused on dealt primarily with technology and Infrastructure. The second version of mHIMSS roadmap which was announced at the summit has an increased focus on applications, and less on Infrastructure, and after attending several educational sessions at the conference, this was a common theme. The recurring question is how to help grow mHealth application development and make it easier for these to meet regulatory requirements. The major cellular providers had a major presence at the show, in fact Sprint was the main sponsor, and Verizon and AT&T had fairly large booths and at least one main speaker including Chris Hill, and Peter Tippett.
It was interesting listening to Eric Dishman from Intel discuss his personal struggles with his organ transplant and how that experience galvanized him to try and improve mHealth. Although I am not in full agreement that the number of traditional hospitals and clinics needs to decrease, it was interesting to hear his vision about the future of home health and wearable technologies. I especially enjoyed his demonstration of the Sotera Wireless ViSi (Wi-Fi capable vital signs monitoring product). I predict we are going to see an explosion in Wi-Fi capable medical devices prescribed to patients by their physicians in the near future.
The increasing focus on the “Internet of Things” painted an interesting picture for increased focus on wellness and the idea of healthcare anywhere.
My primary expertise is in the Wi-Fi space, and I believe that Wi-Fi networks will be a major dependency for cellular carriers offloading traffic locally onto hospital networks. I was surprised to see how little focus there was on infrastructure readiness for mHealth solutions from fellow participants, almost as if its just taken for granted that coverage, bandwidth, security, and application prioritization will be there. I was fortunate enough to be on a couple of panels focused on Wi-Fi Infrastructure and design considerations in healthcare. The first was sponsored by the AAMI and was focused on Best Practices for Managing Wireless Landmines, and the other dealt specifically with infrastructure requirements for building a mission critical wireless network. These were the only 2 sessions that I could find at the conference that were focused on Wi-Fi infrastructure, design best practices, and what an application developer needs to keep in mind when designing applications for use on the wireless network.
As the number of wireless capable devices and applications skyrocket, the dependence on a strong Infrastructure foundation is becoming increasingly important. This is why some colleagues and I got together and wrote a book on Wi-Fi enabled healthcare. We share the concern that application and device designers are assuming that bandwidth constraints are a non-issue, and are not focused enough on best practices for integration with WLANs. After all, Wi-Fi is a half-duplex technology where available bandwidth is shared amongst whichever device happens to be on a given access point at a given time. I hope that the conference attracts more attention on the criticality of proper infrastructure, and more speakers focused on infrastructure dependency next year. I am looking forward to HIMSS14 in February where myself and Doug McDonald will be presenting on how to ensure your wireless infrastructure is ready for mHealth.
For more on the show and mHealth I suggest looking at: