Innovations shine at the mHealth Summit

As payment reform deepens, and with government regulation no longer a barrier, innovators are focusing on delivering value to their customers, especially in the health enterprise customer market.

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This year’s mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. has turned into a connected health innovation showcase. I can feel the influence from Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which bought the event earlier this year. The event not only has the traditional focus on mobile health technologies and applications, but also adds the population health track that broadens the agenda and potentially draws in more attendees from the healthcare industry.

While the event retains topics such as IT interoperability, government regulation, and security, I was more interested in solutions that enhance consumer experience and bring value to their enterprise customers in areas such as care coordination, virtual care and data analytic. I spent more time on the show floor than attending individual sessions and press events. Here are my three key takeaways from discussions with exhibitors and some of my connected health contacts that I bumped into at the event.

Policy and regulations are no longer a top issue 

A few years ago, there were plenty of uncertainties with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and vendor anxiety about FDA regulations on app and software development for health and wellness. Fast forward to 2015, these uncertainties have largely evaporated. Yes, there are debates about the outcome of next year’s presidential election and the policy impact if a republican is elected to presidency; however, there is no longer any doubt about the pay-for-performance models, only how fast they will spread, which ones will become more mainstream, how the payments will be calculated, and what shares can technology vendors get.

What’s more, I did not hear FDA regulation discussions anymore. I am sure there are still areas for clarity, but with apps approved by the FDA in the last 18 months served as guidance, app developers and software vendors have a pretty good idea about the nuances that FDA looks for in any new applications. 

Care provider customers under capitated payment arrangements become high-priority targets

As confidence in the payment reform efforts grows, most technology vendors today target healthcare institutions that receive capitated payments for all or a portion of the patient population. There is no accurate tally on how many patients/consumers are under such an arrangement negotiated between healthcare providers and public/private payers. My best guess is about 20-25 percent today and will eventually reach 50-60 percent in about 4-5 years. As a result, most vendors today are chasing a concentrated pool of care providers serving these patients, which leads to a competitive market benefiting care providers as they can try out different vendors via pilots (Yes, there are still lots of pilots around!). It is very critical for me to distinguish vendors that boast customer wins only for running a pilot, from those having a deep partnership relation with customers and beginning to roll out deployments in a consistent manner.

The show floor is dominated by companies pursuing a B2B business model

Not many companies choose to target consumers directly, but smart ones start to use good consumer experience as evidence to convince their business customers. In my conversations with about 20-30 exhibitors, 3-5 emphasized what they have done in the consumer market and what unique features drive consumer usage. That’s a smart move and a good marketing strategy to differentiate from many “me too” solutions on the market today. Companies such as BePATIENT and Caremerge are quite impressive in this regards.

About 50 percent of the companies on the show floor are new to me -- not surprising given the innovation pace in the healthcare industry. Early market leaders are facing new challengers in their respective categories. For instance, Validic would be challenged by Tactio Health, whereas American Well and MDLive would collide with startups like Pager and Medicast down the road. As usual, Qualcomm, Intel, and Walgreens have brought in their partners to showcase the versatility of their respective ecosystem, but one company that caught my attention is Integron.

Billed as a telehealth deployment firm, the company claims that it runs a much bigger healthcare M2M business than traditional M2M brands like KORE and Aeris. It, too, brought in its ecosystem partners that offer customized end-point devices and work-flow software, making it an end-to-end telehealth deployment partner to healthcare systems and physician groups.

My experience at the mHealth Summit indicates it is likely to evolve into an event similar to Health 2.0, but on the east coast. Entrepreneurs will have another venue to meet prospective customers and showcase their innovations. That’s great news to the entire industry.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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