As we begin to think about holidays, visions of sugar plum health apps danced in the heads of the mHealth participants attending the 2012 summit, recently held in Washington, DC.  Billed as the largest event of its kind, the 4th annual mHealth Summit brought together leaders from across the mHealth ecosystem to advance collaboration in the use of wireless technology for improving health outcomes in the United States and abroad.  In efforts to differentiate itself from last year’s event, this summit contained a focus on mHealth research for the purpose of facilitating development and commercialization of empirically-supported solutions for specific disease states in addition to highlighting emerging best practices and sustainable business models for mobile health.

As part of the research track, Dr. Richard Pettigrew, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering Director, moderated a session entitled, “State of the Science in Research on Mobile Health Technologies.”   During this presentation, Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, Senior Director at the University of Toronto’s University Health Network, stressed the need to streamline processes for mHealth app usability testing, which are often mired in funding and randomized clinical trial requirements.  And together with his co-panelist, Dr. Bonnie Spring, Professor in Preventive Medicine, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University, his comments reinforced the need to establish the utility and value of mHealth technologies.

So, how do we cross this bureaucratic chasm, moving successful design to action?  Being a fan of collaborative innovation, I was delighted to see that George Washington University is already tackling this question.  With representatives from GW faculty in clinical medicine, public health, biostatistics, and engineering, the George Washington mHealth Collaborative has received grants from government, industry, and private foundations to develop and test mobile and electronic health applications for smoking cessation, hypertension, bipolar disorder, diabetes, peritoneal dialysis and prenatal health.  Together with their government and commercial partners, the GW mHealth Collaborative is engaging patients in the use of these solutions.

As so many have noted, physician alignment and leadership is integral to the successful delivery of mHealth.  In the video below, Dr. Joshua Cohen, Professor of Medicine and Director of Endocrinology at George Washington Hospital, aptly points out that the ultimate goal is for apps to be successfully integrated with one’s electronic health record in order to provide a comprehensive, detailed overview within a broader healthcare network.  In the absence of mHealth efficacy studies demonstrating the ability for real people to improve their health, better engage in their care, and enhance communication with their providers, much like the Nutcracker’s Clara, one has to wonder why haven’t we accelerated mHealth collaboration from dreams to reality?