Acronyms abound in mHealth ecosystem

By Eric Wicklund
01:57 PM

Thinking of diving into the mHealth ecosystem? You'll need a really good grasp of acronyms. And a healthy dose of patience.

Attendees at the 2013 HIMSS Conference and Exhibition were treated to a primer on the alphabet soup of organizations in "Federal mHealth Policy 101," a Monday-morning education session presented by Jessica A. Jacobs, MHSA, CPHIMS. Her hour-long session targeted the bigger federal players, including the HHS, CMS, FDA, FTC, FCC and the Office of Civil Rights.

It also brought to the forefront the realization that, with so many organizations wanting their share of the mHealth pie, the required rules, regulations and standards aren't showing up with any degree of haste.

To wit: The FDA's final document regarding regulation of mobile medical apps has been expected for several months, and it still isn't here.

"I have seen a lot of predictions that say March," Jacobs shrugged. "But who knows?"

Also in the pipeline is a regulatory framework for mHealth that's being put together by the FDA, FCC and ONC. That one at least has a deadline, Jacobs pointed out, though that deadline is roughly one year away.

Jacobs, who has worked with the ONC, FDA and HRSA and chaired the mHIMSS Mobile Devices and Regulatory Implications group, put together a primer on the various agencies involved in mHealth that touched on their responsibilities. She also noted that many of the agencies share those responsibilities and are working together to make sure the landscape is properly regulated.

During a Q&A session, she was asked about Happtique, the New York-based app store that recently unveiled a standards program for apps. Jacobs said Happtique's program, set to launch this spring, may very well be like the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology's EHR certification program. When asked if mHealth regulations might be too strict, and therefore serve to stifle innovation, she said the federal government is trying to take a broad-based approach so that it doesn't hinder creativity.

The key to the mHealth landscape going forward, she said, is collaboration.

"There are a lot of cabinet players in this mobile health space," she pointed out.