This week saw the the seventh World of Health IT Conference and Exhibition in Dublin get underway, with a theme of ‘Delivering Innovative Healthcare and Well-Being’. Over 2,500 international delegates and 100 exhibitors were expected to attend this event, co-organised by the European Commission and the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and WoHIT (World of Health IT Conference & Exhibition).
Of particular interest to HealthTechViews was the two-day mHealth Symposium, focusing on ‘mobile’ health. This symposium featured presentations from global mHealth leaders on topics including:
- The opportunities mHealth offers to transform patient access to services;
- The potential for older people to benefit from mHealth;
- mHealth tools and their impact on chronic disease management; and
- How mHealth tools are changing the way that healthcare professionals work, and helping to solve resourcing problems.
These topics link to two of the key industry movements that we have identified as driving change in health technology. In our initial post setting out the research agenda, we identified mobility and mobile technology as a key issue, describing how improving use of mobile devices should reduce costs and increase effectiveness. We believe that easier access to apps will attract wider participation in healthcare, both from patients and wider interest groups. Coupled with improved use of social media, mobile health has the potential to improve patient engagement both in personal healthcare and in broader healthcare issues across the globe.
So what happened at the mHealth Symposium?
The symposium started from the standpoint that mHealth cannot exist alone; it needs to be integrated with traditional healthcare. Hal Wolf from Kaiser Permanente considered how healthcare systems could maximize the potential of mHealth for improving clinical care and patient engagement. He believes we need to be thoughtful about the technologies concerned, and the impact they have on people and processes. David Collins from mobile Health Information Management Systems Society (mHIMSS) argued that building an mHealth strategy is crucial to successful integration, and offered a few ideas about developing such a strategy.
There were a number of speakers from specific companies or projects attending to share their experiences and insights. A speaker from ISMETT-UPMC Palermo recanted their experience delivering high-quality care at home after liver transplantation. Comarch explored how various players in the market are thinking about ‘distant care’ nowadays, and identified how they have made it work. Representatives from Continua Health Alliance discussed their insights into standards and case studies on using personal health devices, and also about establishing industry standards for interoperability. Telcare explored how its cellular technology and social networking bridge the gap between diabetes patients, carers and families, as an example of the potential for this technology to transform the care of chronic illness. The last session of the Symposium considers the future of mHealth, led by a speaker from Qualcomm Life, one of the event’s sponsors, together with Comarch and Telcare, and involving a small ‘reaction panel’. This considers the challenges and opportunities in mHealth.
Hospital case studies
Discussions about integrating mHealth into the hospital environment included examples from Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London, Istituto Nationale dei Tumori in Milan, and Westfries Gasthuis Hospital in the Netherlands, all of whom have been successful in using mHealth systems alongside conventional systems. And speakers from Spain, Italy and Denmark discussed ways of assessing the impact of introducing telehealth services into mainstream medicine. The session covered the work of Renewing Health, which assessed the impact of 21 telehealth services in nine European regions.
The session on chronic disease management looked at using patients to help design suitable apps. This last, led by a speaker from the Norwegian Institute for Integrated Care and Telemedicine, is a fascinating example of using patient engagement as a way to engage other patients. And as patients are increasingly recognised to be the real experts on their own health, and certainly on how best to engage with them, this type of process will hopefully become more common. We will be keeping a close eye on this area at HealthTechViews, and hope to bring you more on it in the future, as this issue is high on our research agenda.