2011 mHealth Summit 'struck' a chord; presenters lay plans for next year

By Mike Moran, Project Editor
The 2011 mHealth Summit "surpassed everyone's expectations," said Richard Scarfo, director of the summit at the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), the non-profit that produces the annual event. And plans are already being developed to enhance next year's event for attendees and exhibitors.

"I think we've got a very special but delicate thing here that we've created," he said. "We want to make sure that we remain relevant and that this evolves in a way that makes sense to people. I don't want to be just another event."

This year's summit, held Dec. 5-7 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in Washington D.C., attracted 3,600 attendees (1,200 more than last year), representing 50 countries and 46 states; 298 companies also exhibited, up from 140 last year.

The 2012 mHealth Summit will return to the Gaylord next Dec. 3-5. It's "feasible" that next year's event could attract 4,500 attendees, said Scarfo, adding that he'd also like to see a 25 percent increase in exhibitors. The goal, as always, is for the summit to provide a high degree of value to attendees and to exhibitors, he added.

"This year was tricky, moving to a bigger exhibit floor," he said. "We had people in sessions a good part of the day. Next year there will be a stronger emphasis on activities taking place on the floor. Striking a balance next year is important."

Also next year, attendees will learn more about how established uses of mHealth are being deployed domestically and in the developing world to create access, reduce costs and improve efficiencies. They'll also get a birds-eye view of hot new technologies and what's to come, Scarfo said.

Additionally, the 2012 mHealth Summit will bring back the Digital Media Pavilion, which used social media to broadcast the event to a global virtual audience. The summit's other pavilions provided a great way for smaller companies to band together and exhibit in a cost-effective and supportive manner. This format will return next year, and summit officials are looking to add additional themed pavilions, such as gaming, Scarfo said.

An emerging market
Describing the summit's focus is no easy trick. Asking that question of five different people will produce five different answers, Scarfo said. That's because mobile health is an emerging market. Big companies looking to get into the market see the summit as a testing ground. Smaller companies are seeking partners and/or looking to learn from research initiatives. Researchers come to learn about new technology and how they might be able to help develop it. Hospital officials attend to discover new ways to make their operations more efficient and reduce costs.

"We are trying to provide something unique that complements the activities of other organizations and that really offers a forum at the end of the year for everyone to come together and talk about the hottest advances in wireless, what the future holds and how we can all work together," Scarfo said.

Even with the 2011 mHealth Summit in the books for only a week, the FNIH is already talking to some potential new strategic affiliates, Scarfo said.

"I can't announce them yet because it is still in the works, but they are significant industry players," he said. "This proves to me that the mHealth Summit has struck a chord because these aren't small organizations. These guys are leading the wireless industry, and we have them circling the summit."

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