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Pearls of Wisdom from the 2014 mHealth Summit


Photo by Dr. Stuart Hochron.

The buzz at this year’s mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. revolved around two deeply different types of technology: relatively low-tech solutions for care coordination, and the remarkable potential of EHR analytics. The value of combining high and low-tech solutions was also on display in the area of remote patient monitoring and wearable technology, where unique approaches that leverage telehealth were shown to consistently reduce hospitalizations and lower the cost of care. Here are five things you missed out on if you weren’t at the Summit:

1. The Power of Basic Telehealth

Dr. Neil Evans, Co-Director of Connected Health at the Department of Veteran Affairs, discussed the power of relatively simple telehealth options for disease management. Dr. Evans said his favorite application this year is the soon-to-be released app Annie, a patient-provider communication application. This customizable mobile messaging system will send personalized and targeted text messages to high-risk patients and provide health tips, appointment reminders, and prompts to help track health data and care plans. Annie is named after Lt. Annie G. Fox, the first woman to receive the Purple Heart for combat at Pearl Harbor. Annie was inspired by a British system named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. The Florence system has proven highly effective in reducing hospitalizations among patients with chronic disease.

2. Analytics Combine EHR Content and Social Media

Hold onto your hats. Perhaps the wildest near-opportunity for healthcare analytics was discussed by Dean Stephens, CEO of Healthline. His company is developing natural language processing and medical language taxonomy analytics that use probabilistic theory to crunch non-structured EHR text, patients’ social media posts, and information placed into EHRs by patients’ use of “open notes.” The analytics then predict outcomes and fill reporting gaps in the EHR. IBM’s Watson subscribes to the company’s software, so I’m thinking we’re pretty sure this lofty plan may actually become a reality.

3. Automated, Mobile Psychotherapy

Deprexis wins our mHealth Summit wow factor award. The application is currently live in Europe and it’s prescribed by psychiatrists and therapists, stimulating one-on-one psychotherapy throughout a ninety day course of treatment without human therapist interaction. And get this – Deprexis has been found to be as effective as medication in eight clinical trials. According to Dr. Matthias Zenker, co-founder of GAIA (the company that developed the app), Deprexis is currently in clinical trial at the University of Texas, too, and is en route to the FDA for approval. The web-based therapeutic app has been used to treat thousands of patients in Europe for disorders ranging from epilepsy to back pain to depression. The company started in 2001 when Airbus approached its founders seeking a cost-effective, broadly available behavioral medicine-focused treatment for its employees with back pain. The app communicates via text, asks daily or more frequent questions, and continues a dialogue after gauging a patient’s responses.

4. Successful Startups Create Valuable Solutions

Richard Vasquez, MD, FACS, a surgeon at Northwestern University, presented an mHealth solution to the problem of human error in the process of completing surgical safety checklists. Pre-operative checklists are designed to prevent errors related to improper patient or operative site identification. Despite the use of checklists in every OR, Dr. Vasquez said, “Fire drills often takes place in the pre-op holding area where pre-op approval data and surgical consent forms are required, but missing. Missing consent forms occur in 18% of cases, and surgery site errors continue to occur.” Dr. Vasquez’s Safestart system is designed to reduce surgical site errors by automating the process, increasing hospital efficiency and patient satisfaction. Use of the system begins in the surgeon’s office and requires patient approval of the final form. The tablet-based system includes a copy of the surgical consent form, a photo of the intended surgical site, and it’s particularly suited for pediatric, orthopedic and ophthalmologic procedures, according to Dr. Vasquez.

5. Next Frontier Advice for Startups

Dr. Wesley Valdez is a startup scout who described his job at Intermountain Health as “finding diamonds in the rough by looking over the horizon of tech and process.” Dr. Valdez is Director of Telehealth Services at Intermountain and he oversees the system’s Healthcare Transformation Laboratory. “The bar was set very low for this year’s startups,” Valdez said. “Many were doing the same thing with monitoring or analytics, and it’s easy for bigger companies to copy their ideas and make the same product better and faster, and sink you.” His advice to entrepreneurs? “Understand that the waters are filled with sharks, and partner early with a seasoned healthcare mentor/manager who knows where the mines are. The next frontier’s successful healthcare startups will develop not only valuable, innovative products but also business models that are transformative.” As an example, Valdez described a video call center that delivered remote physician consultation to the public within nine minutes of an on-line request. He is also on the lookout for powerful algorithms that will change the ways we look at data.

Stuart Hochron

Stuart Hochron

    Dr. Hochron co-founded and is the Chief Medical Officer of Practice Unite, a mobile solution that improves healthcare communications and provides healthcare systems with a platform for their mobile strategy. His approach to coordinating care using customized, integrated mHealth tools has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, HIMSS Media, the Journal of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, MedCityNews, MedTechBoston, and by American College of Healthcare Executives and the New York eHealth Collaborative. Dr. Hochron’s approaches to mHealth integration are used throughout the care continuum to coordinate acute care, post-discharge care, and to monitor and manage long-term care.Hochron has more than 25 years of experience advising and working with healthcare systems and providers in his roles as a practicing physician and healthcare attorney. He received his MD degree from New York Medical College, and his JD degree from Rutgers Law School. He is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Medicine at UMDNJ-Rutgers medical school.

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