The mHealth Summit is the largest annual gathering dedicated to mHealth in the world and convenes a global group of researchers, health professionals & industry. As a media partner for the Summit, iMedicalApps will be presenting an exclusive series of interviews with keynote and prominent speakers between now and the December meeting titled “mHealth Leaders speak to iMedicalApps”.

Joseph Kvedar, MD, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Connected Health, which was established in 1995 by Partners HealthCare.

Partners was founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and is a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

The Center’s mission is to “develop new strategies to move health care from the hospital and doctor’s office into the day-to-day lives of patients.” Dr. Kvedar will be speaking in the Super Sessions at the Summit on “Mobile Health in the Clinical Enterprise”.

Read below to learn more about the fascinating work being done at the Center for Connected Health and his thoughts on the mHealth Summit.

Why are you participating in the mHealth Summit?

The growth in this sector has been extraordinary in the last that two or three years. From a patient perspective, the power of having mobile technology always on, always networked, in the palm of your hand and very personal just really does open up a whole new opportunity for the delivery of health care that we just have never thought about.

What do you hope to get out of it?

I think safe to say in this space the mHealth Summit is one of the biggest meetings, so there is going to be great content, and there are going to be great networking opportunities. I hope to get insights into the field, to take the pulse of what’s happening and to with colleagues working in the same area to inspire new concepts and business relationships.

Could you please share a few thoughts on the potential of mHealth to improve health?

I have been at it seventeen years and we just couldn’t conceive of the opportunity that today’s smart phones, as an example, give us in terms of just-in-time care delivery and just-in-time messaging and the opportunity to educate people when they needed the most and on and on. So I do think there is something here, I do think it’s a — it’s really profound and it is going to have an enormous effect on not just the health care industry, but all industries.

Mobile technology is with you and we are always connected so that we can use it as a tool to sense all kinds of things about you and collect them and aggregate them and then give you insight into your lifestyle which will be important for health care.

Tell me about the Center for Connected Health

We changed our name in 2006 from Partners Telemedicine because we evolved from the concept of traditional telemedicine and got into some of these other areas, so we thought we need to really have a different term for what we do. We would say that mHealth and connected health aren’t exactly the same. But mobile enables us to push our vision so much faster, in such a more compelling way that it’s incredibly exciting. Now what we do here is we are very focused on opportunities for really two things.

One is self care and insights into lifestyle change and behavior change and all those sort of things that will take your population that’s headed for chronic illness and reverse that trend. And then the second is just-in-time care or the ability of a health care provider to manage a population of patients and then reach into the moment and find you and say, “hey, look it’s me, I am just looking over your data, and it looks to me like — you know, I see this trend over the last three days of your blood glucose reading, let’s have a chat about what’s going on” and do that teaching in the moment that you just can almost never do during office visits. You’ve got an appointment at 3 pm on Friday afternoon and that’s when you show up and if you are not sick then it’s a quick visit, but if you go home in the next week you get sick, tough luck.

It seems the Center works both on the provider and the consumer side

So we are definitely a hybrid organization, that’s part of what is fun about it. We do have an academic side, true, but as a division of Information Systems at Partners Healthcare, one of our missions is to keep the organization three to five — more like five to seven – years ahead of the curve on these technologies. So, as we move into a world of accountable care and capitation, all of a sudden it’s become very, very plausible that we use a lot of these programs to extend ourselves across greater population of patients and take care of them effectively outside of the office. It’s really about creating innovative programs that get us into the care coordination world as opposed to the office visit world.

Then we have what I call our external facing side. We do some research grants, we do some cutting edge research, we have four or five things going on right now that are fairly large scale implementation trials of either an interesting technology or a care model. We are doing something with social networking and Facebook in asthma for instance.

We are doing something with an ingestible biosensor that measures certain things, and whether that’s effective for changing behavior. We are doing some things with a medication adherence device that scans pills and tells you whether you took the right pill or if you filled the bin wrong, its a very, very smart device. So we do that work and it is either funded by research grants or by the companies themselves.

And then we have a consulting practice, particularly for early stage firms. But a variety of organizations hire us to help them to either get their products sorted out and determine how they fit in the marketplace or possibly to do a feasibility trial or a clinical trial. We sometimes help people with their business plan, we connect them with funders.

We aren’t an official incubator in that sense but we do a lot of those things. We also have a close associate who can help people sort out their investment strategies. So we do bleed over into the start up world. I tell people our mission is to accelerate the adoption of connected health and that can be by moving things forward in the commercial sector or it can be right here in our own delivery system.

How can connected medical devices reduce health care costs ? Have you seen some examples?

Well, I alluded to this in the very beginning, we have this hypothesis that our patients and consumers – people don’t have to be already sick to be part of this phenomenon – they are our biggest untapped resource. And the way that we believe that we’re going to fundamentally lower the cost of care or decrease the demand in an already overtaxed system is by offloading more and more of the responsibility on to individuals. And they will be happy to do it because who cares more about your health than you do?

The statistics that I like to throw out here are that 56% of the health care expenses in this country are labor. In the last, I want to say, ten years the economy in general has increased labor productivity by 1.8% whereas health care has fallen by 0.8% creating an almost three percentage point difference in the overall productivity of workers in our economy and what’s going on in health care.

So we really have an enormous opportunity to use our healthcare labor across more individuals and keep more individuals healthy, lowering the demand and lowering the cost. We think mobile health, and of course “connected health” our brand of mobile health, has that opportunity. It has to do with feedback loops, it has to do with just in time care. We are seeing it happen, and have great data in our own patient populations that’s showing this can happen and that’s the direction we are pushing everything we are doing.

Do you think capitated and global payment structures will help or hinder adoption of these technologies?

I would say it will be a boost because providers, when they really are capitated, will very quickly realize that their most precious resource is their brick and mortar and they simply don’t need to have everybody come in for every sore throat, flu shot, blood pressure check. We did all those things for years partly because we couldn’t think any differently but also probably because the cash register rings every time you go – that’s the only way the cash register rings. So you know if you get us out of that, where you are going to get paid a flat rate to take care of this population and the goal then is to sign up more people because the more people you sign up the more you get paid and yet be more efficient, this stuff will take off like a rocket.

It seems there is an mHealth conference somewhere every other week. What do you believe sets the mHealth Summit apart?

I think the that has to do really with the fact that there’s such a heavy emphasis on the NIH side. And that brings a different crowd to the table,. You have Health 2.0, which I know is not mobile meeting but there certainly is plenty of mobile technology present there. Health 2.0 is mostly about startup land. There is also the Wireless Life Science Alliance which is really more traditional pharma and device companies and how they are moving into wireless.

We run a meeting here, the Connected Health Symposium which is really about policy and psychology around growing the connected health market. I think the reason the mHealth Summit can attract thousands of people is because it attracts people from the foundation side, it attracts people from the public health side, and it attracts people from the various institutes at NIH. So it’s a different crowd and they are thinking about the problems differently. I am a big huge believer in the whole ecosystem and I am an equal opportunity networker. There are people here that I wouldn’t necessarily get to see at other meetings.

[Ed. In addition to his role at the Center for Connected Health, Dr. Kvedar is a past President and Board member of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and a Past Chair of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Task Force on Telemedicine. In 2009, Dr. Kvedar was honored by the ATA with its Individual Leadership Award, recognizing his significant contributions to connected health and telemedicine. Mass High Tech, The Journal of New England Technology named Dr. Kvedar an All-Star in the field of healthcare. ]