Simple answers to a complex question

Last week in this column, I asked my faithful readers to help me define the scope of mobile healthcare for this month-old publication. I didn't get much, just one publicist pushing a tablet PC-based electronic medical record for home health workers. Interesting, but it didn't exactly answer my question. Plus, I'd seen that sort of technology before.

Fortunately, the Internet is an infinite space, and there are others out there seeking and offering the same kind of advice. Some even share my first name. Exhibit A is Toronto attorney and technology researcher Neil Seeman, who recently asked readers of Canada's National Post to suggest low-cost medical and healthcare uses for cell phones. This week, he reports getting numerous ideas from "entrepreneurs from around the world"--most of whom had proprietary technologies to shill, natch.

Still, Seeman came away impressed by many of the offerings, particularly those related to management of chronic diseases, usually diabetes. Texting is a particularly good and simple use of cell phones, such as at a self-management anti-coagulation clinic in Amsterdam, and a dialysis-prevention program in the Philippines. He reported on how paramedics in Winnipeg, Manitoba, transmit EKG readings from ambulances to cardiologists.

Of course, regular readers of FierceMobileHealthcare know that I've already focused plenty on texting for disease management, and that municipal Wi-Fi networks in Tucson, AZ, and now Baton Rouge, LA, put the Winnipeg initiative to shame by providing live, two-way telemedicine from ambulance to trauma center.

Dr. Peter Madras of the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts wrote Seeman to explain how patients could carry personal health records on their mobile phones. This is something that the former Medical Records Institute hoped to have 10 million Americans doing by last February. No dice. In fact, that organization recently disbanded, and its leaders moved on to a new project called the mHealth Initiative, also cited in the Post story.

Seeman also mentioned a producer of relaxation videos who hopes to turn some into short video clips for mobile phones to help people fight depression. It's here that there may be some real potential. I just happened to get an email last week from Jack Baseley, who raved about a $1.99 iPhone app called "White Noise" that did in a matter of weeks, something that years of medication could not: cure his insomnia. What's notable about this endorsement for a drug-free, iPhone-based remedy is that Baseley is a software quality engineer in the R&D department of Abbott Laboratories.

Sometimes it's the simplest things that have the biggest impact. - Neil