National and international experts in health care and mobile technology gathered in Washington, DC, December 3-5, 2012, for the mHealth Summit: Connecting the Mobile Health Ecosystem. HIV.gov joined government, health, private sector, industry, academic, and nonprofit leaders to learn and share about how wireless technology is being used to improve health outcomes in the United States and abroad, and particularly how it relates to HIV prevention, infectious disease, and sexual health. In four years, the Summit has grown from 800 attendees to thousands, covering a variety of issues from a diversity of perspectives. We have assembled some themes that arose throughout the Summit.
- Using wireless technology (such as mobile phones and other digital platforms) has been proven to be effective. In fact, many of the results presented at the Infectious Disease panel demonstrated that mobile devices have the potential to connect with high-risk populations and acquire data we need to understand and deliver services for healthy communities across the world.
- Jump in and try new things. During the HIV Prevention panel, many panelists discussed the importance of building infrastructure and relationships with potential partners and stakeholders from the ground up in order to make an impact as technology (and consumer usage) is moving quickly.
- There is no substitute for trust. Wireless technology can be an irreplaceable tool to provide promotional health messaging to target populations. However, it is only a tool. If the message or intervention does not come from a reliable, trusted source, it does not matter how it is delivered. This was a key lesson learned presented at the Using Mobiles to Improve Maternal & Newborn Health panel.
- Policy, infrastructure, and ownership are vital. Throughout the Summit, keynote speakers and panelists alike noted that in the emerging mobile health field, there are still many questions. Therefore, proactively establishing policies and infrastructure, and determining ownership of consumer information is vital for any successful mobile health program.
- Health literacy can make or break any intervention. David Muntz, the principal deputy national coordinator of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology told the audience at the Federal Policy and mHealth: Update and Future Direction panel to remember that “it’s not literacy, economics, age, and education that determine whether this will succeed – the common factor we see is health literacy. We don’t need to try to cross the digital divide, until we try to first cross the health knowledge divide.”
For more information about the mHealth Summit 2012 and to watch selected Summit videos, visit mhealthsummit.org.