mHealth/Telehealth Investors and Entrepreneurs: The Generational Divide

Mobile health (“mHealth”, “telehealth” or any other terms for health care delivered wirelessly) is revolutionizing the health care industry. That message resounded at last week’s mHealth Summit, which gathered roughly 4,000 investors and angel-funders, telecom and software companies, and entrepreneurs and developers to share ideas and display new mHealth products. Hot mHealth areas include data analytics, texting and medical records. Home health and medical homes also stand to benefit with the introduction of products designed to submit protected health information (“PHI”) and other data between patient and provider. One example is an electronic pill reminder which notifies the provider if the patient has not taken his or her pills. Even more cutting-edge, in the near future mHealth technology will enable consumers to bypass providers and diagnose their own medical conditions, such as ear infections and rashes, by relying on data transmitted through video, devices on the body, and other diagnostic technologies for analysis through clinical decision and other diagnostic software.

mHealth product development is being driven by Generation Y, i.e., those born in the late-1970s and after, who are more adept with social media and technology than their elders. Several younger developers expressed the idea that disruptive technology like mHealth would not be slowed by bureaucracies like the government, legal system and banking that often impede market developments. This may explain why relatively few sessions at the mHealth Summit focused on government, legal and financial issues. Many entrepreneurs and investors could benefit from additional education regarding the regulatory oversight structure for mHealth products, the avenues to obtain funding, and ongoing reimbursement issues. Do these investors and entrepreneurs understand that HIPAA compliance requires more than just encryption? Are they fully apprised about Medicare reimbursement policies for telehealth, as well as initiatives under the Affordable Care Act (health care reform) programs and others that may provide grants and other funding? Do they understand the FDA review process for mobile medical applications? There is a need for much more education for investors, developers and others engaged in mHealth. Still, it was exciting to see the variety of products and innovative thinking at the mHealth Summit, suggesting great things ahead for mHealth.