Shuffling off to Buffalo for mHealth

This week in Congress, the mobile health spotlight is on Western New York. As chairman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, Republican Congressman Chris Collins, who represents New York's largely rural and suburban 27th Congressional District near Buffalo, N.Y., is slated to give mobile medical app entrepreneurs the recognition he believes they deserve in a June 27 hearing that highlights the "groundbreaking" apps they are developing and how the technology is changing the face of healthcare in this country.  

Among the entrepreneurs that will be testifying at Collins' hearing on Thursday is Sabrina Casucci, a Ph.D candidate in industrial and systems engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Casucci is part of a team of engineering students at the university that won second place in the Grand Prize round of the GE HealthQuest Challenge for the development of a new mobile app that can be used to improve hospital operations and the patient/caregiver experience. 

Called "Discharge Roadmap," their app provides a mobile solution to the complex problems of discharge management by supporting better and more timely communication aimed at patients and family caregivers throughout the discharge process, with the goal of reducing hospital readmissions. The team, which won a $25,000 prize in the GE HealthQuest Challenge, is still considering its options for development of the app moving forward. 

Casucci told FierceMobileHealthcare that the intent of Thursday's subcommittee hearing is to help members understand the opportunities in the field of mHealth and what the federal government should be doing to foster innovation in the private sector.     

"Our group is very honored to participate, especially since we don't have connections with the committee, or any other politician or group," said Casucci. "I understand that the House of Representatives found us because of our participation in the GE HealthQuest competition that concluded earlier this year. It is really just a happy coincidence that Rep. Collins is the chair of this committee." 

As a freshman congressman elected to office in November 2012, Collins came to Capitol Hill with both private and public sector experience after running a tough campaign to bring "business sensibilities" to Washington. Before serving as Erie County executive, Collins built a successful career as a business owner and entrepreneur and, in the process, claims to have created and saved hundreds of American jobs by buying financially distressed and bankrupt companies in the Buffalo area.

A self-made multimillionaire and an engineer with a business background in both biotechnology and pharmaceutical science, Collins is now trying to make a name for himself in the House of Representatives as a pro-business/anti-regulation congressman. His leadership of the Health and Technology subcommittee is the perfect platform for railing against government regulations that he claims are stifling small businesses, which account for more than three-quarters of the top app developers, according to a study cited by Collins. 

At stake are the half a million jobs and nearly $25 billion in revenue that Collins says these mHealth apps are providing, not to mention those as-yet untapped innovations and investments in the mobile healthcare industry that will fuel our economy and improve quality of care. In March, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held three days worth of hearings on the subject of mHealth regulations and the major obstacles they pose to entrepreneurs. We'll have to wait and see if Collins and his subcommittee can cover any new ground not already explored by his Republican colleagues. - Greg (@Slabodkin)