Medical Records Institute launches mobile tech initiative

By Eric Wicklund
09:44 AM

The Medical Records Institute's yearlong drive to champion healthcare IT applications on cell phones and other mobile devices has led to the formation of a new, non-profit advocacy group.

The mHealth Initiative, Inc., incorporated in Massachusetts, was unveiled Sunday in Palm Springs, Calif., during the opening day of MRI's 25th annual Towards the Electronic Patient Record (TEPR+) conference and exhibition. The new organization is open to vendors, groups and individuals and focuses on the latest information on health applications through mobile devices (mDevices).

"mHealth applications will save money, improve the quality of care and provide greater efficiency," said MRI Vice President Claudia Tessier, a former executive director of the Mobile Health Care Alliance (MoHCA). Tessier will lead the new group. "The mHealth Initiative will show the healthcare industry how this is possible," Tessier said. "Through mHI, we will create a roadmap for the new health ecosystem based on mDevices, new software, new interoperability solutions and secure wireless transmission."

The seeds for the new organization were sewn during last year's TEPR conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., during which MRI officials launched a yearlong study of the effectiveness of healthcare applications on cell phones. Among the participants at that time was AllOne Health Group, Inc., of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., which subsequently launched its AllOne Mobile service on a platform designed by Canada's Diversinet for 350,000 members of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Spurred by last year's launch of Apple's 3G iPhone, several vendors have debuted cell phone- or PDA-based applications, including Epocrates, AirStrip technologies and Opus Healthcare Solutions. Many others are beta-testing applications or promising new products in the coming months.

"mHealth will be the next revolution in healthcare," said C. Peter Waegemann, MRI's CEO and executive director of the mHealth Initiative. "It will create interoperability, save costs, bring the power of the Internet to the point of care and ... improve the quality of healthcare. We envision mainstream adoption beginning as early as 2009."

Waegemann has been touting cell phone use in healthcare IT for years, since he helped found MoHCA in 2006.  At that time, the effort was focused on developing applications for personal health records. Last August, MRI launched the Center for Cell Phone Applications in Healthcare (C-PACH), designed as a membership-based clearinghouse and collaboration center that would study the advancement of cell phone applications in healthcare.

"Recognizing the need for potential value of an independent not-for-profit organization to lead efforts promoting development and adoption of mobile technologies in healthcare, Medical Records Institute's Center for Cell Phone Applications in Healthcare is passing the mHealth torch to mHealth Initiative Inc.," Waegemann said Sunday.

The new organization will organize workgroups at the conclusion of this year's TEPR+ conference and soon launch a Web-based communications center. The mHealth Initiative will then host an mHealth Seminar on March 31 at the John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center in Boston, schedule additional workgroup meetings in June and September and host "Mobilizing Healthcare," its first of what is expected to be an annual conference and exhibition, Dec. 9-10 at the Copley Marriott Hotel in Boston.