Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mobile Health Issues Discussed

A Capitol Hill roundtable discussion on “Policy, Technology, and Research Developments in Mobile Health” held on May 5th as part of the Congressional Seminar series was hosted by Qualcomm and the American Telemedicine Association.

Neal Neuberger, Executive Director of the Institute for e-Health Policy managing the Congressional briefing series, said, “Over 140 briefings and demonstrations have been held on Capitol Hill since 1993 with Co-Chairs in both the Senate and House involved in the briefing seminars. Right now the momentum to use technology is rapidly moving ahead in so many new directions, and as a result, so many new thoughts, ideas, and challenges are open for discussion.”

The moderator Dale Alverson, M.D. Medical Director, Center for Telehealth, University of New Mexico Health Sciences and President of the American Telemedicine Association, assembled experts from industry, government, private groups, and George Washington university to discuss the challenges and accomplishments in the field of health technology and particularly to discuss the current status of mobile health use.

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), stopped by the discussion to relate how New Mexico a state with tremendous rural areas along with medically underserved areas is working to get adequate care to these specific regions.

Both Dr. Alverson and the Senator mentioned the importance of passing the “Rural Technology Telemedicine Enhancing Community Health Act of 2009”. Specifically, the legislation would establish telehealth pilot programs to expand access to stroke telehealth services under Medicare, improve access to store and forward telehealth services in the IHS and federally qualified health centers, and reimburse IHS facilities as originating sites.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), also speaking to the group, emphasized the need to use telehealth technologies to help providers and patients have more options for care. By using e-care, it is possible for everyone in the U.S. to have a doctor, but to achieve this goal, the reimbursement iceberg has to move forward so that there will be more doctors and more value from the healthcare dollar.

He wants to see a rational strategy where everyone from the agencies involved in the issues could have productive discussions and work together. All of the agencies and other interested parties would then be able to come to the table and develop ways to help deliver more effective healthcare for the 21st century.

As Dr. Mohit Kaushal, FCC Healthcare Director, stated, “Mobile health is a new frontier to enable patients to receive care anywhere/ anytime, but it will require all concerned to proactively manage their healthcare in order to achieve better quality and to improve access.

“Mobile Health using cell phones with appropriate apps can really reach the population”, said Kent Dicks, President and CEO, MedApps Mobile Health Monitoring. “We need to align off-the-shelf devices to create a system that patients can use to enable people to stay in the home.” This is possible today with the MedApps Solution since the technology is completely mobile, not required to be tethered to a point of care location, and can be integrated with off-the-shelf medical monitors.

Robert Jarrin, Esq. Director, Government Affairs, Qualcomm, reported the good news that the healthcare industry is showing rapid growth among the largest fortune 500 companies. This is an important time for the expansion of health technologies and especially mobile health technologies, but we have to put the right policies in place to help enable technology adoption.

A specific area of interest to Alice Borelli, Government Relations Director, Intel Corporation & Continua Health Alliance is the aging market and the need for new mobile technologies to help deliver care. She not only wants to see new ways that mobile health can be used to deliver healthcare but also to deliver efficient healthcare globally. She is enthusiastic about the physician and nurse team concept used with technologies that will allow the aging population to remain independent at home.

Other panelists with innovative ideas included Lolita D. Forbes, Esq Counsel, Verizon Wireless, Audie Atienza, PhD, Scientific Advisor for Technology Partnerships at NIH, Ellen Blackler, Executive Director, Public Policy, AT&T, Neal Sikka, M.D., Director, Innovative Practice Section, Medical Director, George Washington University Lifesavers Program, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, THINK-Health, and Victoria Obenshain, Vice President, Wireless Strategic Pansonic.

These panelists voiced their thoughts on actions needed to deliver effective healthcare:

• Bring the exam room to the patient via telehealth technologies and through such programs as the CVS Minute Clinics program
• Focus on community health especially in rural and underserved areas
• Keep looking for ways on how to break down the barriers to adopting EMRs
• Keep advancing the development of smart phones and incorporate them with any new innovations on the horizon
• Focus on an emerging regulatory landscape but at the same time, don’t discourage innovation
• Keep working to achieve interoperability
• Don’t reinvent systems but make sure that the systems that are available are user friendly and really work
• Develop more emergency medical centers in other countries so that people needing medical help will have access to doctors in the U.S.
• Follow through and keep working on reinventing the payment system in the U.S.
• Follow up with a national discussion on mobile health

For more information on future meetings, go to