mHealth Monthly Mashup: Release 8.0 – how to get the most out of mhealth: an interview with Brian Edwards (part 2)

Michael Spitz interviews Brian Edwards

Ignite Health and

Continued from mHealth Monthly Mashup: Release 8.0 – how to get the most out of mhealth: an interview with Brian Edwards (part 1)

In part one of this two-part interview, we discussed the adoption rates of smartphones in healthcare providers and how increased use can be encouraged. In this second part we speak with Brian Edwards about pharma’s role in mHealth.

Interview summary

MS: Now let’s consider the role of pharma in mHealth. Some have expressed the opinion that pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t participate at all, instead relying on payers, hospitals, academic institutions, and private investors to create apps and resources that indirectly promulgate the use of the treatment solutions pharma creates. What do you think?

BE: I don’t think so. In terms of institutional investment, the lion share will — at least initially — come from pharma. They have the vested interest, the capital, and the urgency required to overcome the relatively high risks that are involved in funding emerging technologies. Contingent on that is the need for cultural obstacles to be overcome, the “generation gap” we’ve talked about between Digital Natives and the slow-to-adopt Baby Boomers who need to learn and adapt or eventually step aside and let what we all know to be inevitable finally happen.

MS: So what should pharma do?

BE: Pharma should approach mHealth with a willingness to experiment and make key discoveries through trial and error, much like they do with their drugs. Partnering up with and even creating regional innovation centers throughout the country is key, dovetailing off already vibrant and established mHealth hubs such as Boston and San Diego, two particularly fertile breeding grounds where venture capital, clinical expertise, and cutting edge technology merge to drive the latest in innovation. Pharma should take research teams around the country, and work with academic clinicians to figure out how to apply the technology in novel ways for diagnostics, treatment recommendations, administration, and even patient compliance.

“Pharma should approach mHealth with a willingness to experiment and make key discoveries through trial and error.”

MS: Beyond research, what practical benefit could mHealth deliver to pharma?

BE: The value of mHealth for pharma goes well beyond, and in a sense before, product support, beginning with clinical trials. Tapping into the incredible data mining capabilities through the binary networks I’ve mentioned would reveal statistical anomalies much more quickly, while that same technology could revolutionize how clinical trials are recruited for, measured, and even constructed. Imagine the power and opportunities engendered through being able to monitor, mine, and analyse comprehensive patient vital signs and data, as opposed to the highly limited data sets typically obtained on premises.

MS: Sounds like body sensing is only the beginning of the binary loop—what exciting things are happening on the analytics side of mHealth?

BE: Informatics is at the heart of mHealth. The latest hardware and connectivity enables access to a streaming fire hose of continuous information, instantly turned on and never turned off. Passive apps, already in existence, designed to monitor smartphone activity can collect a mountain of data analysed to discover any deviation from baseline, thereby inferring an anomaly suggestive of a health condition, critical problem such as stroke or a fall, and potentially even predict such events. Watch as the finance, investment, and insurance industries eventually partner with pharma to apply their complex algorithms and pattern recognition software for the powerful analysis of healthcare data, including the efficacy and side effects of drugs, using some of the same tools hedge fund managers use to find patterns in the markets.

MS: Sounds like the depth and breadth of mHealth goes well beyond pharma, and will eventually significantly impact every aspect of healthcare.

BE: Very much so. mHealth compels the rethinking, almost on a foundational level, of such entrenched infrastructures as outpatient and preventative care, adherence and compliance, payer relationships, specialist referrals and consultation, medical education, simulations, even gaming.

“Watch as the finance, investment, and insurance industries eventually partner with pharma…”

MS: Tell us a little about that, Brian. Most of us are familiar with the “gamification” of healthcare in some form or another—but what is your take on its connection to mHealth?

BE: You know what’s funny, I never played video games. I grew up playing sports, being outside. But now the power and potential of gamification for healthcare in undeniable, without precedent in its ability to help patients make lifestyle adjustments through competitive play and providing the motivation to perform otherwise boring, repetitive, or even uncomfortable tasks. On the paediatric front, for example, games can be used to educate and bond with younger patients. And in terms of mHealth, gamification is ideally suited to the binary networks we discussed earlier, in that they provide a location-independent channel for interacting with complex data that flows between multiple users. A simple example is Striiv, a personal fitness device that makes exercise fun by tracking each movement and fostering motivation through competitive virtual environments and even providing charitable donations based on performance.

MS: It’s been fun and extremely informative talking to you, Brian!

BE: Thanks, and stay tuned. The converging worlds of technology, medicine, and communications are nowhere better realized or rifer with possibility than mHealth.

About the interviewee and author:

Brian T. Edwards is a Project Manager of East Baton Rouge Parish’s BR-Med Connect Prehospital Telemedicine Network, Brian oversaw the design, development and deployment of a prehospital STEMI network, as well as coordinating the participation of several public agencies and private vendors. Brian is Director of Business Development for Wave Technology Group, a startup developing an ambulatory EEG smartphone app and wearable sensors for real-time remote M2M monitoring of chronic seizure patients by clinical neurologists. Brian is also Associate Director of the US branch of, an organization that brings together multidisciplinary thought leaders to promote the use of grid and cloud computing technologies in health care. Brian graduated from DePaul University with a degree in Political Science.

Michael Spitz is VP of Digital Strategy at Ignite Health, with offices located in New York City, New York, and Irvine, California. Spitz combines his passion for technology with more than 15 years of clinical content expertise to help engineer healthcare communications solutions across numerous treatment areas for many of the pharmaceutical industry’s major companies. Follow @SpitzStrategy on Twitter for his daily – often hourly – updates on all things digital for the ultimate benefit of patients worldwide.

Does the depth and breadth of pharma go well beyond healthcare?