Select Committee on Aging adds to the confusion surrounding mHealth

Whilst it’s great to see that mHealth is getting talked about in the US Government circles (more on the National Broadband Plan here) it’s a great shame that they can’t draft in a specialist in this field as it’s pretty obvious Senator Wyden hasn’t too much familiarity with mHealth and he’s fallen for the common mistake of thinking like a technologist.

He starts by introducing how “new healthcare technologies that use a High Speed Internet Connection can better meet the health needs of America’s seniors”, before proceeding to give 4 examples of mHealth technologies that will work perfectly over normal 2G cellular networks.

The intentions are great: “these new technologies can save the older people a trip to the Doctor, or in tragic instances a trip to the emergency room”

(Tragic is a bit assumptive – I think he means “serious” or at worst “sad” – due to the plight faced by America’s uninsured. Which is a little surprising considering his experience representing the aged).

But he’s got his terminologies all muddled up: “So for the purpose of this hearing I’m going to call these new technologies eCare”. What? Why? Everything he goes on to introduce involves a patients mobile phone!

The mHealth “gadgets” he introduces are:

1) A “High Tech Bandaid” – which looks somewhat like the Proteus Biomedical Raisin.

But functions very differently: According to the Senator it’s apparently attached to the skin “loaded with Drugs” and it can then administer these in a way that can be wirelessly controlled by the patients remote Doctor/Pharmacist. I’m not so sure he thought that through before saying it, transdermal drug absorption has a long way to go before this is a reality!

UPDATE: According to the very knowledgeable Brian Dolan of MobiHealthNews it seems this device is the Zeo Patch by iRhythm

UPDATE II: Following discussion in the comments below Brian Dolan’s confirmed that this isn’t the Zeo Patch but a new patch from Isis BioPolymer.

2) The MedApp HealthPal 2G Mobile Phone (check out this post on MedApps – winner of the Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit Awards that I organised last year)

3) Nonin Bluetooth Pulse Oximeter

Listening to his concept of the use case for the pulse oximeter, I was amazed to learn “so then you get a read out that in effect confirms to your spouse that you have been eating properly and exercising”. Why your spouse? Would your spouse know how to adjust expectations through an appreciation of your drug regime? Unless you’re getting your Healthcare team to monitor this data I can only see this leading to more need for Doctor/ER visits!

4) The Corventis PiiX Patch

Thankfully as of 6.00 minutes he starts to make a lot more sense pointing out the issues of Medicare including it’s lack of recognition of “eCare” and the way it rewards volume and attendence.

But I’m still not sure that this argument is strong enough to support his conclusion that “Only when the country has a reliable broadband infrastructure in place… …will it be possible to transform the healthcare system that is today all about SickCare into one that finally focuses on Healthcare in keeping our folks well”.

Unfortunately (and I say this as someone who would benefit massively if the whole world was covered in High Speed Broadband!) I think we’re deluding ourselves if we think high speed broadband is what’s going to save the health of America – especially when you consider the much deeper issues surrounding patient education and misinformation eg. KFC’s being repainted Pink in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness:

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9 Responses to Select Committee on Aging adds to the confusion surrounding mHealth

  1. Brian Dolan says:


    Actually, I think it might be a device made by Isis Biopolymer. It doesn’t look like Proteus Biomedical’s patch, and if it is, the good Senator got the use case wrong by a longshot. At first I thought it was Zio by iRhythm. But iRhythm does not make a transdermal drug delivery patch.

    Best bet is Isis, which I’ve never seen a prototype from, but I’m hoping to confirm soon.


  2. bart says:

    … and the Zio is patented by Apple afaik. Skip to slide 29
    An official presentation on mhealth WITHOUT prejudiced mentions about privacy/security … that’s a first!

  3. Bart,

    As you know at this stage the air we breath is practically ‘Patented by Apple’ but the image you show on Slide 29 (above the Apple patent/image of the Zio) is actually from Toumaz (which is a spin out of the UK’s largest medical school – Imperial College) – so lots of prior art amongst other companies in this field.

    In total I agree that it’s nice to hear things presented without these prejudices BUT for me the poor scripting gives away the fact that this is just the results of lobbying $’s from those who stand to benefit from investment in High Speed Broadband roll out.

    To my mind successful mHealth innovations can survive with their own business models so it’s a shame to see them being used as the excuse-of-the-day to get the US government spending on things that will have little overall impact eg. South Korea has got high penetration of High Speed Broadband but every senior there isn’t wearing a remote controlled transdermal drug delivery patch!

    Unfortunately you’ve got to be believed to be heard…

  4. bart says:

    aha, found my source for the apple patent
    Make no mistake: we will have our 4 or 5G networks (in the western world that is).
    Firstly because of the profit margins for operators (low margins on basic data monitoring apps + SMS), secondly we can expect badly/ancient scripted mhealth applications being bloathed with ‘functionalities’. Such apps can only survive on high powered devices on 4 or 5G.
    Thirdly the lobbiest will push 1 & 2 and they have the cash/expertise to do it.

    Of course it’s a shame to put so much money in the ‘wrong’ basket. I would rather go for the über-robust techniques from developing countries, but i don’t think that will be the outcome eventually … in the real world.

    I wonder if someday i will disagree with your opinions 😉

  5. Pingback: Where’s the evidence that Hospitals/Nurses/Drug Companies/Doctors/Insurers need to offer their patients mHealth solutions today? « 3G Doctor Blog

  6. Pingback: Engadget profiles Smartphone use in mHealth emergency response « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

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