mHealth Summit Berlin 2014 takeaways
attended the mHealth Summit last week, which was dare I say, a great experience.
We are on the cusp of a major movement.
My only real complaint was there were usually two speakers at the same time in different rooms, and I wanted to hear everything. Hopefully next year they will podcast all presentations, for later review.
Some of the main issues were:
mHealth has a lot of potential for chronic disease management for improving quality of life, improving outcomes, and reducing costs.
While wellness apps use is exploding, the actual evidence for their effectiveness at improving long term health outcomes is still controversial.
Big Pharma has not yet embraced mHealth, due to a lack of a clear cut ROI (return on investment) model.
Wellness aims to reduce future illness, therefore in theory reducing demand for medications. Why would Pharma invest to lower their own sales? As long as their model is focused on selling compounds, they have no clear connection to mHealth.
Health care systems are cost driven, therefore mHealth must show it can reduce costs to warrant large scale adoption. Just adding an mHealth layer on top of an existing system, will only dirctly reduce costs if other services are cut.
Big Question-What does data security and privacy mean in mHealth?
Everyone is talking about the role of big data in all this. The use of mobile devices gives the potential for enormous amounts of data to be used for studies, analysis and predictive models. However informed consent regulations, allow medical data to only be used for exactly purposes stated. This has a counterproductive side, as researchers are often unsure what they will find when they are collecting data.
The FDA and EU regulations on apps is still being written. Basically if it is for record keeping for personal use or general information, than it is unregulated. If there is interpretation of data, then it is regulated. Seems to make sense, but there is still a lot of grey area there. The presenters in the MMA Roadshow, strongly suggested that anyone developing medical apps, go through the regulatory process, even if it was not strictly required.
Some of the difficulties are:
European markets are diverse, and developers need to tailor goals and strategies to different conditions, i.e. smart phone adoption and internet access can be quite different in neighboring countries. In addition, each country has its own rules and regulations on data privacy. What seems to come up again and again is the need to tailor solutions to local conditions.
mHealth systems that will interface with national systems have to take into account legacy systems. These big systems have many invested parties and are not amenable to agile development cycles.
Big Pharma seems very vulnerable, however it is not clear how many smaller companies are going to be able to make a big impact in mHealth. There are so many complexities to stakeholder interactions.
Will small developers be able to disrupt the current medical systems? Or will there be strong regulations coming which creates large barrier to entry. It seems that Silicon Valley has the power and influence to make a large impact. And the numbers show the tech companies are investing.
The question remains if tech companies like Facebook will embrace evidence based health outcomes, or just embrace profit. Of course one could ask the same of Big Pharma, but there are in theory strong regulations in place to protect consumers.
Whoever controls the data and flows of personal health information will presumably be able to leverage it into some sort of profitable financial model.