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Thoughts from HIMSS mHealth Summit 2015

I’ve just returned from this year’s HIMSS mHealth Summit, part of eHealth week 2015 in Riga where I chaired a session on ‘mHealth and Assisted Care – solving the demographic challenge’, so I wanted to share my impression of the big themes.

Ilves Estonia mHealth Summit Riga 2015

Toomas Ilves, President of Estonia, addresses the mHealth Summit


Firstly, many speakers referred to the demographic challenge of an ageing population in Europe – most memorably by Vytenis Andriukaitis EU Commission for Health, who pointed out that today 17% of the EU population is 65+, by 2060 that proportion doubles to 34%. This puts enormous pressure on health and social care systems, not just in monetary terms but there just doesn’t seem to be the people capacity in terms of carers and professionals to cope.

Secondly, mHealth in Europe seems to work best when it the projects are conducted at a regional or smaller country level – so for example all of the Nordic countries, Estonia, Scotland and regionals of Spain such as Andalucia and Catalonia seem to be the leaders. Many of these have deployment levels of EHRs, ePrescriptions and online appointments that someone like me in England could only dream of. Larger countries seem to get paralysed, especially if they try to achieve a national consensus or policy. It still wasn’t clear how this regional leadership could be translated to wider deployment in the EU.

Thirdly, data security was mentioned a lot, having been a big theme in the feedback to the EU Green Paper on mHealth – although my feeling was that this was more of a provider concern than a patient concern. This may be driven by the harsh economics – providers face huge fines for data leakage whereas patients seem happy to share data if they think there is even a slight chance of finding answers to their health needs. It seems like we’ve got the balance wrong here.

Lastly, consumerisation and the role of the user/patient was referred to more often than in previous events, although I still didn’t get the impression that the attendees knew what that would mean – when I mentioned my own initiative to take health tech direct to consumers they pretty much glazed over (maybe that was down to me).

Other highlights

I was also pleased to hear about some exciting developments that show how we can benefit through sharing best practice at these events:

  1. Kysos TeleMedical Centre (Netherlands) – Prof. Leonard Witkamp, a true visionary, created his telemedicine service in 2001 and since then has built up what he described as a virtual hospital – no premises but 4,500 GPs and 2,500 specialists providing 200,000 remote consultations annually across dermatology, ophthalmology, cardiology and mental health. This is impressive but he pointed out that enlightened reimbursement changes have been a big factor in this success
  2. Monsenso (Denmark) – a spinoff from the very smart people at University of Copenhagen, this innovative service supports mental health patients, who are a priority for mHealth given the lack of traditional resources to support them. What I liked about this was that it goes beyond the simple mood-tracking approach that I’ve seen before, and incorporates behavioural data, including data from the generic sensors built into a smartphone, then applies predictive analytics to support the supervising clinician. It’s now clinically proven and could be for mental health what Welldoc® is for diabetes.

Lastly, it was interesting to see how many speakers abandoned PowerPoint and just talked. I don’t know if this is a sign of weariness with the ubiquitous PowerPoint, but it really didn’t help the visual learners like me. But that’s a small issue – overall what was great that there was a really wide-ranging group of people who were willing to share and work together. Room for optimism.

If you were there too, or have your own thoughts, please let me know, below, or get in touch.


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