mHealth Summit Has New Look for 2015

Now in its seventh year, the mHealth Summit is taking its “innovation” theme to a new level with a few surprises in 2015. First and foremost, the summit is taking place a month earlier than usual – this year’s event will be held November 8-11 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington DC.  (Does this mean we won’t get to see the annual Christmas display in the Gaylord’s voluminous atrium?)

Second, it’s now part of the HIMSS Connected Health Conference, which also includes the Global mHealth Forum, the Population Health Summit and the CyberSecurity Summit – all for the price of a single registration.

And if that’s not enough, attendees can add on registration for seven additional co-located one-day conferences and events covering, wearables, games for health, venture capital and start-ups.

Let me confess: the mHealth Summit is one of my favorite annual events in the healthcare space. Attendees and exhibitors have a missionary zeal, and they embrace their roles as evangelists. And I love the tech on display — both the hardware and the apps. It reminds me a lot of CES, the big consumer electronics show in Vegas, except on a more intimate scale, and confined to a topic I’m passionate about.

Where are the providers?

But in my view, there’s always been one thing missing from the mHealth Summit – the providers. Last year, only 14 percent of attendees came from provider and payer organizations. While this represents the second-largest demographic group at the summit, mixing payers and providers together masks the actually attendance of CIOs, IT directors, and other technology professionals from hospitals and large practices.

When the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society acquired the event in 2012, many industry observers expected HIMSS members (today, some 61,000 strong) to fill that gap. Yet even three years in, the exhibit floor and education sessions still seemed the sole province of technology developers, consultants, consumer advocates, government officials (it is in DC after all) and a handful of independent, forward thinking clinicians.

Eric Wicklund, editor of mHealth News (owned by HIMSS Media), says the acquisition may simply have been ahead of its time. In 2012, CIOs were in the midst of certifying EHRs, trying to get a handle on meaningful use, and dreading the implications of a change-over from ICD-9 to ICD-10. There just wasn’t the bandwidth to think about mHealth.

Wicklund also suggests that a conference between Thanksgiving and the end of the year was a difficult pill for many CIOs and practitioners. “If your goal was to attract providers, it just seems like a hard time to hold a conference,” he said, pointing to the holidays and the wintry weather.

Three reasons to reconsider

Wicklund thinks that in addition to the broader focus of the conference and the change in dates, there are good reasons to believe this year’s event will appeal to technologists and clinicians.

#1 - Connected health implies provider participation. Says Wicklund, “HIMSS identified three hot-button issues for providers – mHealth, cyber security and patient engagement. It’s not about mobility anymore — it’s connected care, and providers have a real stake in that.”

#2 - Greater focus on provider use cases. Providers might want to look at the clinical care track, which features a number of case studies from some of the country’s leading hospitals and health systems, including the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital.

#3 - Breaking news on provider issues. Here’s another reason why CIOs might want to make plans to attend this year’s event – the Office of the National Coordinator has agreed to hold a “fireside chat” on the recently released Interoperability Roadmap. Also at the Monday, Nov. 9 gathering, ONC officials are likely to detail the latest meaningful use final rule.

In a recent interview, HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber provided a strong justification for why CIOs should invest more time looking at and understanding mHealth, wearables and the Internet of Things.

“Healthcare is entering an era of the consumer and with that comes new challenges and opportunities,” Lieber told mHealth News. “More than ever before consumers are taking greater control of their health and healthcare. To support that trend, providers need to provide a different level of connectivity between the clinician and the consumer. Mobile health, population health and information security are critical components in achieving this new level of electronic connection.”

I think Lieber is spot-on. Connected health is being driven by consumerism, and healthcare providers who aren’t able to respond to consumer demands for interactive and interoperable data, new payment options, self-serve scheduling and greater convenience will be left behind. Taking care of the infrastructure and managing internal applications used to occupy the full attention of provider-based technologists, but in today’s world, that is simply not enough. As care spills over the hospital wall (think about preventing unnecessary readmissions as just one example), the technology will follow.

Do you plan to attend the mHealth Summit this year? Why or what not? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet at @jbeaudoin.