NIH committed to advancing mHealth research, directors say

By Diana Manos
03:32 PM
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Leaders at the National Institutes of Health and its nonprofit Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) said they would stand behind the advancement of research for the use of mobile phones for healthcare.

At a national conference on mobile health, the mHealth Summit, held Nov. 8-10 in Washington, D.C., NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, called mHealth "a growing opportunity."

Collins, noted for his prior work in leading the Human Genome Project said, "it's time to take advantage of the marriage of mobile technology and research. That's why, in 2010, NIH will issue 150 grants for mHealth research. The research will include the use of mobile phones, telehealth and GPS.

Some studies already underway include one at Arizona State University using a wearable, real-time chemical sensor system to assess personal exposure to hydrocarbons. Another at UCLA involves the use of a microscope that doesn't need a lens to transmit data in resource-limited locations. A computer can interpret the images from the phone for infectious disease.

"I hope you get the sense of NIH's commitment to this, which is really quite wide and deep," Collins told attendees at the summit. NIH and the FNIH, along with the mHealth Alliance sponsored the event.

John Porter, acting chair of FNIH said, "science, technology, innovation and research is America's economic destiny."

"I'm not a scientist, but I know that science, technology, innovation and research is where America leads the world," he said. "Science must receive funding support to help grow our economy and give us high-paying and high-tech jobs."

Scott Campbell, executive director and CEO for FNIH is said mHealth is still in its early stages.

"mHealth offers tremendous promise to change the way we deliver healthcare and perform health-related monitoring. But it's not quite ready for prime time," he said. "We're in the proof of concept phase and pilot project phase. We will get there eventually. The devil's in the details, and how long 'eventually' is remains a source of discussion."

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