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The mHealth Pulse: Dr. Ashish Atreja & Anuj Desai Talk Healthcare & Technology

This week, we spent time chatting with Dr. Ashish Atreja, assistant professor and chief technology and engagement officer at Mt. Sinai Hospital, and Anuj Desai, vice president of market development at the NY eHealth Collaborative. Atreja and Desai are both mHealth enthusiasts working with New York Digital Health Accelerator, which sponsors and evaluates start-up ideas. They’ll also both be speaking at next week’s Washington-DC based mHealth Summit, December 7-11, 2014, joining a panel called “Vetting, Onboarding and Championing New Technologies.”

Anuj and Ashish spoke with us about the newest digital healthcare trends, the best apps on the market today and their specific roles in the mHealth arena.


Dr. Ashish Atreja, assistant professor and chief technology and engagement officer at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Photo provided.

Q: Tell us about what you do.

Anuj Desai: We help find companies that are established and have credible products – perhaps in care coordination or patient engagement – that we can help them pilot or help them roll out.

Ashish Atreja: Many healthcare providers approach us with ideas for mobile apps. We foster face-to-face meetings to determine the need they’re trying to address and get at their idea for addressing that need. Then we try to look into the platforms we already have at Mt. Sinai to see if modification of those platforms would help meet their needs. If the product’s available, we help make that implementation happen for them.

Many times, they’re looking for platforms that aren’t available. In those instances, we give them guidance on obtaining funding, relevant timeframes, and educate them about our co-development partners.

Q: What technologies do you see as being particularly interesting and innovative right now?

Anuj: The innovations that are exciting are those that are aligned with the needs of payment reform. As healthcare providers move from fee-for-service to a managed-care model, we’re interested in solutions that help providers better manage their workflow around those models.

An example would be a predictive analytics company that’s able to work with large sets of data that identifies high-risk patients. We’re also interested in care-coordination companies that enable healthcare providers to better communicate across different systems and within the community.

Q: Where is mHealth headed?

Ashish: mHealth is becoming a mature market. mHealth today is where EHRs were about ten years ago. While some consolidation has taken place, it has not gone to the level of the EHR market where much more consolidation has taken place.

What’s lacking is evidence that proves the value of mHealth. Not just in terms of return on investment, but in terms of improving patient outcomes. A lot of our effort is not just innovating on the mHealth front, but also every technology that we try to build with partners or bring in to evaluate – either in terms of trials or studies – to show that these solutions really can make a difference. Even though there’s been good development on the innovation side, there needs to be more work on the engagement side.

Desai_Anuj_NYeC_New York EHealth Collaborative_

Anuj Desai, vice president of market development at the NY eHealth Collaborative. Photo provided.

Anuj: I agree. Mobile is embedded into patients’ lives wherever they go. We’re starting to see a shift from a separate health record, for example; now the EHR is integrated with a mobile platform. Now it’s essential that a care-coordination platform is integrated with a mobile platform that clinicians can use. There’s definitely a recognition that mobile is a channel to get to the consumer and to get to the provider.

On the trend side, we’re starting to see a number of innovations around app stores and different mobile apps that our companies are trying to push. But it’s still questionable how sustainable adoption is. For example, as a consumer, I have 150 apps on my cell phone, and some of them are healthcare related. To create something I go back to on a day-to-day basis, to create that behavior, that’s something we’re starting to see now.

Q: What apps are you seeing out there, and why are they successful?

Anuj: One app we love is a weight-loss app called Noom. It’s the number one app downloaded in the Google and Apple stores. What’s great about it is that you use it to log and keep track of your diet. After two years, 48 percent of consumers are still using it – and they lose an average of 10 pounds. Noom has pivoted from a consumer-driven model to a provider-based model. Now they’re focusing on having care coordinators who work with large groups of patients to help them manage their diabetes better and also help them lose weight.

What I really like about Noom is they’re focused on the patient experience. They’ve built a really strong user base on the consumer side. They’re taking the successes of how consumers engage with coaches, and they’re helping them make healthy lifestyle decisions. That motivation and coaching and user experience is helping to make users successful, and it’s going to help them translate success as they pivot over to provider organizations in helping with diabetes.

Ashish: I’d peg WellDoc’s DiabetesManager, which provides a system for patients and healthcare providers to coordinate diabetes management. They’ve chosen a very different path from Noom. They went into a clinical trial for diabetes to prove its value, and then they got FDA approval. It’s pretty unique for medical apps to do that. A doctor may not be available 24/7, but a peer mentor may be there. It’s like if you work with a coach in the gym; you may have more success than if you worked out solo in the gym. That stream of thinking is evolving, and you’re going to see more of that in different apps.

To hear more from Ashish and Anuj, register for the 2014 mHealth Summit, which meets from December 7-11, 2014, in Washington D.C.

Aine Cryts

Aine Cryts

    Aine (“ONya”) Cryts is an on-staff contributing writer for MedTech Boston. She's a political scientist by education, a writer and marketer by trade. She has written for various healthcare technology publications and also served as marketing director at several healthcare software companies in the Boston area. Cryts is an avid volunteer, pet lover and long-distance runner. Story ideas are always welcome.

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