eHealth 2008 Conference Review

There have been so many interesting conversations enjoyed over the event. Here I’ll try my best to sum up – in no particular order – some of the key developments that I saw at the conference which I feel will have some direct influences on the direction of mobile healthcare in the next few years.

First of all there was my talk on “Connected Care: Adding Value to the Electronic Health Record”:

I started out with some examples of the innovation that is making the mobile the centre of future personalized care developments and then summed up how I see the EHR challenge remaining until we have connected patients and their care. Finally I suggested we work together as an industry to promote Always Best Connected principles for healthcare data transmission and the patient ownership and control of their own health information.

Kevin Dean, Managing Director of the Connected Health Internet Business Solutions Group at Cisco shared some of the findings of Cisco’ collaboration with the Scottish Centre for Telehealth that is enabling emergency room patients in Scotland to remotely consult with doctors through video conferencing technology. The HealthPresence booth comes equipped with a range of medical devices such as blood pressure cuffs, glucose monitors, audioscopes and stethoscopes.

Cisco HealthPresence

Trials of the system are documenting considerable patient care benefits from enabling Doctors and Patients to be able to see one another face-to-face. They are also making some great headway in proving the business model for remote care by demonstrating the benefits of more accessible and timely patient access to care. The only downside I can see is that currently patients using the booths need to be assisted by staff – a bit of usability design should be able to fix that and deliver even greater levels of patient privacy as well as important cost savings.

Kevin also pointed us to a useful resource of 120 essays that he has brought together on the opportunities and challenges for e-health in the 21st Century. Download them here.

The Cisco keynote was brilliantly complemented by the excellent position paper from Dr Fiona Mair of Glasgow University who enthusiastically described her own clinical experience of videoconferencing with the Cisco HealthPresence equipment.

Nicholas Robinson, Medical Director for Long Term Conditions and Telehealth with NHS Direct had so many incredibly positive things to say about consumer health technologies (such as the Nintendo Wii and the Nike+) that it opens a key question for me: When are NHS home care technologies going to start offering patients the benefits these consumer solutions are capable of eg. low cost and plug and play ease of use.

Giles Tomsett, Vice President, Healthways International, talked about the part that 20 year old call centre technology has to play in the delivery of 21st century eHealth. There were some great lessons here for NHS Direct as Healthways German network has appreciated the absolute need for continuity of care. There were also some key implementation lessons that they have learnt from the roll out of the program in Germany where there was quite considerable opposition to the change.

Harold Korb talked about the innovative mHealth services of his company Vitaphone GmbHEnglish language website. As pioneers in offering cardiac care via mobile phones it was great to hear from this experienced Cardiac Surgeon about the impact of this innovation. Harold gave us details on the scale of what they are doing already. A very impressive indication of the enormity of the emerging mHealth opportunity.

Milon Gupta, Marketing & PR Manager for Eurescom gave a talk titled “Health@Home – an e-service model for disease prevention and healthcare in the home”. This piece opened my eyes to the reality of today… All of these homecare systems that are being proposed/implemented could be replicated with a smartphone solution today that would be:
> Cheaper
> upgradeable/future proofed
> Easier to install & support
> Support mobility and active lifestyles

That reminds me I’m going to write a blog on a glossy 2 inch thick paper document (that has no supporting online version!) I recently received from the RNID recently that will go into this in some detail.

Ronan Fox, DERI, NUI Galway, demonstrated the mess hospital EHR’s are in as they try to take them from one department to another and summed it up:

“The average patient going to hospital presumes that no matter where he/she goes, that every specialist has access to his/her complete medical record. This is sadly not the case.

Instead, in a hospital with 40 departments there will exist at least 40 specialist electronic patient record systems, some or all of which may exist in isolation… In many cases the result is the movement of paper files between departments which have perfectly functioning IT systems”.

Talk like this makes me start imagining the power and benefits of a single standard patient owned EHR that any department or even a completely separate carer could access and add to. I’m still convinced this has to be patient owned and managed.

Martin Knöll from the Institute of Modern Architecture and Design at the University of Stuttgart gave a talk on “Diabetes City – How Urban Game Design Strategies can help Diabetics”. Martin has been working on a fun Mobile Phone based game for Diabetic patients that offers so much potential for transformation. The depth of opportunity in his work is enormous: Multiplayer Mobile Gaming involving our presence, location and communication will undoubtedly transform the way we support patients. By involving friends, family and other patients in the care of one another we will transform the patient and carer experience… just imagine your mobile phone monitoring your grandfathers well being and connecting him with his friends, family and carers.

Martin went into great detail telling the audience how Computer Games are about to leave their “electronic shells” and become based around our reality. These so-called Serious Pervasive Games (SPGs) will enable simultaneous physical and virtual experiences by applying technologies of ubiquitous computing, communication and “intelligent” interfaces.

Sadly I think that the innovation Martin spoke of will be lost on most of the people who need to understand it. In the Q&A I took the opportunity to remind the audience that in advanced telecom markets such as Korea more than 80% of the entire population has played a particular online game called Kart Rider and that in the US a national Pew Internet research survey shows virtually all kids are gamers. This area of persuasive motivation needs to get much more attention.

Carlos Garcia Wylie, Lancaster University, presented one of the most interesting papers titled “Persuasive Mobile Health Applications”. His work has involved the creation of a 2ME mobile phone application called “Heart Angel” that offers to help people measure, monitor, record, and improve their personal health through use of a bluetooth and GPS enabled smartphone connected (wirelessly) to a Heart Rate Monitor.

Whilst this product almost replicates the Samsung MiCoach product/service, it was incredible for me to find that Carlos had started conceptualizing, developing and testing this innovation before the MiCoach product had even been rumoured. Obviously collaboration and building upon one anothers technology is preferable but by making this a software application that can be installed onto a wide variety of smartphones the Heart Angel offers some unique benefits over a solution that is reliant on a specific vendors device and hardware. It may have taken two of the most significant sport/mobile research institiutes of leading multinationals (Samsung Electronics and Adidas) to make a comparable product but Carlos’ achievement at Lancaster University just goes to prove that smart individuals will make the mobile healthcare revolution happen regardless of what the big device/networks may do.

Ken Purcell, Capsule Technologies gave a talk on “Automating vital signs data collection: how to save time and improve patient care” and used the display area to demonstrate the benefits of their technologies for use in connecting specialist hospital equipment. Ken’ talk showed how innovative companies like Capsule will always challenge the status quo of interoperable devices even in complex areas such as the Hospital ITU. Although it may not be optimal and obviously initiatives like Continua are trying to prevent it, the success & rapid growth of Capsule Technologies is further evidence that whatever barriers are faced market forces will come into play and where there is a need to integrate devices there will inevitably be a way to get them to efficiently interoperate at a cost and level of convenience that customers will pay for. The Capsule technology also seems to be able to achieve remarkable future proofing for hospital equipment which is another key lesson to take away.

Dr. Maria Martini, MINT Centre @ Kingston University, produced a research paper on Subjective and Objective Diagnostic Image Qiuality in Medical Video Streaming. This fundamental quality research is imperative to the future of Video Telemedicine and follows on from some of the fascinating work on 3G wireless technologies in healthcare that Kingston University have previously done. 3G Doctor has agreed to contribute to this research so we look forward to posting more about this in due course.

Dr Mike Short, Vice President Research and Development at o2/Telefonica gave a keynote on “How patients and care providers’ lives will be transformed by wireless connectivity”. This was the first healthcare event I’ve ever seen Mike at and it was fabulous to be able to attract such an influential person from the mobile telecoms world to speak at the inaugral eHealth 2008 Conference.

Very few people in the mobile industry have the expertise or experience of Dr Short, he has been elected Chairman of the global GSM Association and served on their Executive Board for 5 years, served as a member of the UK Home Office Internet Task Force , UK OSAB (Ofcom Spectrum Advisory Board) and DCSF Home access to Broadband committees and currently chairs the UK Trade & Invest ICT Sector advisory board and the Mobile Data Association (since 1998).

Mike showed some quite incredible statistics on the rate of uptake of mobile services and 3G, from the perspective of the UK network that moves the most data over 3G networks. He then made a comprehensive coverage of the Digital Healthcare Trends from a Mobile Evolution perspective.

Mike was great on the Q&A when some key NHS decision makers took umbrage with the use of SMS for communicating with patients – was it private, safe, garunteed to deliver, does it have the legal protection (etc). Mike handled this questioning perfectly. All of these questions have already been asked by the banking organisations. The standards are in place and they’re accessible.

I referred to this point later in my talk when i mentioned how a local practice (using the SMS services of iPlato) had reduced appointment DNA by more than 25% by texting patients to remind them of their appointment.


A great conference that will undoubtedly set a very high standard for the 2nd International ICST Conference on Electronic Healthcare for the 21st Century which takes place on the 23-25 September, 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey. See you there!

About 3G Doctor

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One Response to eHealth 2008 Conference Review

  1. Pingback: Congratulations to Dr Mike Short for recognition in Queens Birthday Honours List « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

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