Mechael offers a glimpse into the mHealth Alliance's agenda for 2012

By Eric Wicklund, Editor, mHIMSS
WASHINGTON – The mHealth Alliance has set its sights on becoming the crossing guard for the so-called "mobile health commons."

That's the vision of Executive Director Patricia Mechael, who joined the organization on October 11 and has been busy helping the global non-profit devise a new strategic plan.

Mechael, who delivered an update on the mHA's activities during last week's mHealth Summit in Washington D.C., said the organization needs to "set the agenda, understand where some of the major gaps are … and then prioritize." Some of the issues facing mHealth programs around the globe, she said, are limited sustainable financing, policy challenges and a lack of capacity and resources.

First conceptualized during a 2008 conference in Bellagio, Italy, the alliance was launched in 2009 by the United Nations Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Vodaphone Foundation. The mHA has since added the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the GSM Association and HP as founding partners, and focuses on "advancing mHealth through policy research, advocacy and support for the development of interoperable solutions and sustainable deployment models."

For Mechael, that means connecting, convening and facilitating.

 "A lot has changed, actually, in the mHealth space in the last 12 months," she told a crowd of close to 100 that filled a meeting room for the Tuesday (Dec. 6) morning update. "I don't think we've opened ourselves up to what it can do as a disruptor in the health system."

Mechael said she's encouraged by the "political will to engage in the mobile health market" that she's seeing in countries around the globe, but the barriers still exist. Chief among them are growing fragmentation, duplication and incoherence. To overcome those barriers, she said, the mHA needs to increase its focus on research and gathering evidence.

She also questioned whether mHealth programs around the world are interoperable.

"There are a lot of systems being invented, but are they being designed in a way that they can talk to each other?" she asked.

Mechael pointed out that the mHealth Alliance works through four channels: Working groups; tools and educational series; an accelerator fund; and platforms such as Health Unbound (HUB), the mPulse newsletter, webinars and the mHealth Summit, for which the alliance is an organizing partner.

In answering questions from her audience, Mechael said the mHA would work to include the entire health community in mHealth discussions, including doctors, nurses, investors, innovators and payers.

"For us, it will be a critical part of our work to get everybody engaged," she said.

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