Speakers at Summit on Mobile Health Address Advances, Concerns

At the 2010 mHealth Summit this week, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra said that mobile technology is advancing at a rapid pace but that a need remains to boost the infrastructure in the U.S. to support progress in mobile health, Healthcare IT News reports.

The Washington, D.C., summit was organized by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the mHealth Alliance and NIH. More than 2,000 professionals from the U.S. and 30 other countries attended the event.

During his keynote remarks, Chopra said that cloud computing and improved connectivity could speed advancements in mobile health technology, but bandwidth and infrastructure also will need to be improved.

Chopra added that the U.S. "need[s] to take our learnings from research and development and think anew about how to use existing spectrum in a more efficient manner." He cited several examples, including the Department of Veterans Affairs' "Blue Button" initiative that allows users to download their personal health information (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 11/9).

NIH Director Francis Collins added that the agency is planning to provide 150 grants toward mHealth research (Manos [1], Healthcare IT News, 11/10).

Gates Discusses Global Health, Mobile Technology

Also during the conference, Microsoft founder Bill Gates told attendees that mobile technology can improve global health through low-cost diagnostic tools, more efficient immunization programs and patient reminders, AFP/Google News reports (AFP/Google News, 11/10).

During his speech, Gates said that cell phones have the potential to ensure children receive vaccines. He noted that cell phones can be used to register births, track locations and make sure that vaccines are administered (Manos [2], Healthcare IT News, 11/10).

Gates also said that health care providers could see improvements in vaccination if they can "just take the vaccines we have today" and make sure they are delivered (Dolan, MobiHealthNews, 11/11).

Barriers and Concerns for mHealth

Several experts and government officials at the summit warned that a lack of understanding of mHealth's benefits and skepticism to invest in the technology could impede efforts to boost its use in the U.S., HealthLeaders Media reports.

According to David Gustafson -- director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies -- there is a large number of health applications available for patients and health care providers but no efficient way to determine which are successful.

Panelists added that governments are reluctant to invest in mHealth without data from large, randomized trials, which can take years to complete.

K. Ganapathy -- president of the Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation in India -- said that a lack of awareness about the potential of mHealth among government officials also is hindering investment (Shaw, HealthLeaders Media, 11/9).


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