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Co-existence -- not connection -- at the 2012 mHealth Summit Bazaar

HealthIT wants your mobile mind.  The mHealth Summit was acquired this past year by HIMSS to ensure that the four horsemen of “technology, business, research, and policy connect.” The organizations they represent would like to disrupt and transform the future of health care delivery. And the 3000+ attendees and 253 exhibitors (up from 206 last year) appear to want to believe in that connection. HIMSS, the largest Health IT association in the world, with its 50,000 individual members, 570 corporate sponsors and 225 non-profit members, has the muscle mass to power the connection of ideas and innovation to healthcare systems, payers, and providers. So it was no surprise when they acquired the nascent mHealth Summit.  As for you of a mobile and mHealthy market mindset – this year you could be a doctor, university research team, a government agency, a hospital, a device maker, a carrier, an IT exec and, oh yeah, as an afterthought, maybe even a consumer and/or patient.

Connecting the dots, but to what? Enough whining already about the fragmentation, ballooning costs and inefficiency of healthcare delivery. The HIMSS/mHealth Summit announcement and event purpose is to connect the healthcare ecosystem. Cool! Our health is at risk if it is not connected soon. We are still being handed clipboards, and transitions from home to hospital and back are poorly tracked -- if at all. Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini wants to drive down Aetna’s healthcare costs by getting consumers and physicians to adopt mHealth technology and deploy a "platform that will begin the evolution." He cited iTriage for symptom-checking, iNexx, a software platform from Medicity, a CarePass hackathon challenge, and  noted a new 'virtual fitness' app called Passage. We want to be fit. But I struggle to see the relationship between rising healthcare costs and the potential of smart phone and tablet apps to reverse that trend. Pause for a Pew Research reality check -- only 11% of the 65+ have smartphones and 7% have tablets. And health tech adoption by consumers appears very limited. Okay, moving on.

AARP and Aging 2.0 sponsored a pavilion about caregiving. So the EngAge pavilion, sponsored by AARP and a new networking organization called Aging 2.0, provided booth and conversational table space for 20 startups and small companies targeting the 50+ market.  Think of that space as inclusive of home health care, family care coordination, and tech that can be worn and/or used by seniors and their families. These included BeClose and NonnaTech (remote monitoring); eCaring (home-based health care management); Making Care Easier (care coordination); QMedic (PERS); GeriJoy (talking pets for seniors) and Unfrazzle (mobile task management for family caregivers).

Care-related technology for older adults popped up all over the hall.  I dream of a taxonomy for categories of technology at places like the mHealth Summit so that the program guide and exhibitor lists could be sorted after the fact. Wouldn’t it be great to see tags like caregiving, senior care, technology and aging? Then you could know the relevance of Care Technology Systems and AFrame Digital (remote monitoring); MedSignals for medication dispensing; Ideal Life (telehealth); Kinergy Health (care coordination) and even some in the corporate market who were quite surprised that their offerings could be useful in a senior housing market. Consider Fitlinxx's Pebble – a wireless and waterproof activity tracker that attaches to shoelaces or shoes – surely it could monitor seniors as they moved around within continuing care communities or in their home neighborhoods.

Hackathons and bazaars – the road to tech innovation or distraction?  Let us observe a recent trend in the software industry – it seems that companies have exhausted the talents of their software staffs and partner companies. And so they have turned to hackathon weekends, perhaps comprised of themselves and tech-skilled passersby as a way to spark innovation – resulting in a bazaar of technologies versus a cathedral of software architecture and structure. This is either a wondrous phenomenon, or it highlights a history of wasted investment in engineering teams and suppliers who cannot morph to new platforms quickly. But hacking on or about what? Where is the vision for what a new model of care delivery and consumer experience will become? Vinod Khosla’s onstage comment rationalizes the trend with confidence: “Bazaars evolve much faster than cathedrals do — often because people leave cathedrals to join the bazaar.” And preferably, as he has been brazen enough to say, those will be young people – no boomer inventors for the 57-year-old Vinod. How inclusive of him. So there you have it -- doctors, young developers and systems architects are rushing to join the bazaar – leaving that immovable cathedral, the Health IT infrastructure, unchanged. As for technology and older adults, a cathedral builder is STILL wanted.












I wonder if part of the problem is that doctors still may not believe in the model and/or are limited in their own silo of service to not see the bigger picture that they should be "connecting" with?

Sadly, I think some technologies just keep fragmenting the system more than coordinating it with all the cracks in the system for people to fall into.


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