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Podcast: mHealth Alliance Executive Director Patty Mechael

Patricia Mechael is the newly installed executive director of the mHealth Alliance, a joint effort of the United Nations Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation. The mHealth Alliance this week is joining with the Foundation of the National Institutes of Health to put on the third annual mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Md.

I first met Patty in 2008, at the mobile health week of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Making the eHealth Connection conferences in bucolic Bellagio, Italy, when she was m-health advisor to the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, a post she continues to hold. I was impressed by her international credentials in applying mobility to public health.

She was chosen in September to lead the mHealth Alliance, and joined just a few weeks ago. I interviewed her by phone last week in anticipation of the mHealth Summit. This is the result. (I’ll have a companion piece in MobiHealthNews in the next day or two.)

Podcast details: Interview with Patricia Mechael, executive director of mHealth Alliance. Recorded Dec. 1, 2011. MP3, mono, 64 kbps, 5.1 MB. Running time 11:05
0:40 Roots in Bellagio meetings
1:30 mHealth Summit
2:05 Vision for mHealth Alliance and mHealth Summit
3:50 Legacy of Bellagio
4:45 Global reach of mobile phones
6:45 Multiple communication channels to account for literacy differences
7:25 Smartphones in global health
8:20 Separating hype from reality in low-resource environments

December 5, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Bellagio follow-up in ‘Health Affairs’

There’s been a lot of work done in the field of global e-health since the Rockefeller Foundation‘s series of conferences in Bellagio, Italy, in July and August 2008. I had the distinct honor of attending for the third of four weeks, which focused on electronic health records and on mobile healthcare, two subjects that even more up my alley now then they were a year and a half ago.

I’ve had intermittent contact with some of the participants in those conferences since then, most recently at the AMIA annual symposium last month, and I’ve tried to report on progress from those meetings toward applying information technology to addressing health issues in developing countries. A wider audience will get a chance to read more about some of the projects in an upcoming issue of Health Affairs.

From what I understand, in mid-February, Health Affairs will publish nine papers on global e-health issues related to the work done at and as a result of Bellagio. I’m not privy to any further details, though.

December 6, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

What’s in a name?

Just a couple of weeks after the Medical Records Institute launched its mHealth Initiative—quietly admitting failure of its plan to get 10 million people using their cell phones to transfer health information by this spring—a program called the mHealth Alliance has launched in Europe.

The Rockefeller Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and the UK-based Vodafone Foundation made the annoucement Tuesday at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The global project is an outgrowth of the UN Foundation-Vodafone Foundation “mHealth for Development” report and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Making the eHealth Connection conferences in magnificent Bellagio, Italy, last summer. I was present for the third week, which included the mobile health track.

I am, of course, available for all your conference coverage needs in bucolic European resort towns.

February 19, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Gates Foundation to fund global informatics training

The American Medical Informatics Association will announce Monday that it has received a $1.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote health informatics and biomedical education and training worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

This will be the first project of a new program called 20/20, in which the International Medical Informatics Association and its regional affiliates, including AMIA, will attempt to train 20,000 informatics professionals globally by 2020. This is an outgrowth of the AMIA 10×10 program to train 10,000 people in informatics in the U.S. by 2010. IMIA and its partners will discuss details of 20/20 this week at the Wellcome Trust in London.

AMIA will use the Gates Foundation money to develop “scaleable” approaches to e-health education, including a replicable blueprint for training informatics leaders, including physicians, medical records professionals, computer scientists and medical librarians.

“We envision the program will train leaders in low-resource nations by linking them and their institutions to partner institutions affiliated with AMIA to build capacity for managing and improving high-quality, low-cost healthcare in the less-developed economies,” AMIA explains in a statement. AMIA President and CEO Don Detmer, M.D., says this element of 20/20 is aimed at career informaticians “so there won’t be a brain drain.”

Other elements of 20/20 will include individual and degree-track courses at colleges and universities—similar to existing 10×10 curriculum—and skills training, not necessarily specific to medical informatics. “We’re also looking at ways of creating seminars and executive training for people to advocate for this in their home countries,” Detmer says.

Detmer, who is retiring at the end of the year, says the skills training will happen in “bits and bites” to help build incremental capacity in the global e-health workforce. Some planning in this area has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of a $500,000 grant the charity gave to AMIA to lead one of the Making the eHealth Connection conferences last summer in Bellagio, Italy.

The 20/20 program is chaired by N.T. Cheung, head of IT for the Hong Kong Hospital Authority. Other confirmed or likely participating organizations include the European Federation for Medical Informatics, the Asia Pacific Association for Medical Informatics and the Health Informatics Society of Australia.

December 7, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Podcast: Judith Rodin and Ariel Pablos-Méndez of the Rockefeller Foundation

As regular readers know, I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Rockefeller Foundation to Bellagio, Italy, last week for the third of four weeks in a series of conferences called Making the eHealth Connection. The goal was for a small group of technology and healthcare informatics leaders to come up with actionable ideas to use IT to improve the health of people in the developing world.

The week I was there focused on electronic health records and mobile health.

While I was in Bellagio, I interviewed Judith Rodin, Ph.D., president of the Rockefeller Foundation (and former president of the University of Pennsylvania), and Ariel Pablos-Méndez, M.D., managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation and the head of health programs. Unfortunately, there was an echo in the room that found its way onto the recording. And unfortunately the battery ran out of my recorder before I got done chatting with Dr. Pablos.

We also take a while getting into the discussion about IT, but I still think it’s an interesting interview.

Podcast details: Interview with Judith Rodin, Ph.D., and Ariel Pablos-Méndez, M.D., of the Rockefeller Foundation. Recorded July 29, 2008, in Bellagio, Italy. MP3, mono, 64 kbps, 14.5 MB, running time 31:41.

1:05 Rationale behind the conferences
1:55 Harnessing the beneficial aspects of globalization to fix the negative effects
2:50 Why e-health in the developing world?
5:00 Affordability, accessibility and quality of care
5:28 “Leapfrog” strategy for bringing technology to underserved areas
6:50 Market opportunities from public-private partnerships, even in poor countries
8:02 E-health as a remedy to globalization of diseases
10:30 Bold, actionable ideas
12:22 “Game-changing ideas” from previous Bellagio conferences
13:15 Welcome to Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez
14:05 The foundation’s current attempt to strengthen health systems and long history of creating global programs
15:15 Breaking down the silos of health programs in developing countries
16:05 Worldwide concerns go beyond HIV/AIDS
16:40 Problems with access to care, and the role of telemedicine
17:10 Problems with affordability and efficiency
18:20 Good health at low cost
19:15 Theory that the future will be about more health for the money rather than more money for health
19:45 Current Rockefeller Foundation health programs: access
20:35 Role of the private sector in health systems in developing countries
22:45 E-health in the developing world
23:50 Challenges and opportunities in e-health
24:55 Interoperability issues with legacy systems
26:20 Technology transfer from U.S. institutions to Africa before legacy systems become a problem
27:34 Why the timing is right for IT and for these conferences
28:10 Needs: collaboration, agenda setting, capacity building, evidence, applications
30:00 Bold ideas: British NHS and a system in Sao Paolo, Brazil, sharing code with South Africa and developing a framework strategy for e-health

August 8, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

The Davos of Health IT?

BELLAGIO, Italy—As promised, I am at Week 3 of Making the eHealth Connection at the Rockefeller Foundation‘s unbelievably gorgeous retreat and meeting center on the banks of picturesque Lake Como. (Full disclosure: The foundation is paying my travel expenses and providing me with room and board on the campus.)

I am one of perhaps three or four members of the media here this week, which features mostly separate conferences on electronic health records and on mobile health and telemedicine. The sessions are pretty fascinating, but also off the record. I’m only allowed to report on general concepts, not quote people directly from the open forum. I may approach individuals for on-the-record chats during breaks, however, and the plenary sessions are on the record.

I had a story yesterday in Digital HealthCare & Productivity about Monday’s keynote speech of Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of South Africa-based Econet Wireless Group. Masiyiwa, a confidant of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and a Rockefeller Foundation board member, has been called the “Bill Gates of Africa,” at least according to his Wikipedia entry. This bit of trivia, which was not in the bio I was provided, neglects the facts that: Gates is a hardcore geek, not an entrepreneur, which is why he turned over the day-to-day leadership of Microsoft to Steve Ballmer; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pouring billions of dollars into Africa. (For a discussion on the accuracy of Wikipedia, see www.wikiality.com/Wikiality. Or just watch the video below.)

Now that most of my deadlines for paid gigs are out of the way, I’ve got some time to blog. I will have a podcast with at least one Rockefeller Foundation executive on this series of conferences, which I’m taking the liberty of dubbing the “Davos of Health IT.” In fact, Davos, Switzerland, is less than 100 miles from here. Or should I say less than 160.9 km?

July 30, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Health Wonk Review

I submitted my Kolodner podcast to Health Wonk Review, and the latest rundown of the healthcare blogosphere is up at the Health Business Blog, hosted by David Williams. Kudos to David for his succinctness. Now I’m no longer scared to volunteer to host one of these. Just not in the next couple of weeks, as I’m off to Italy on Saturday evening for the third week of the Rockefeller Foundation‘s “Making the eHealth Connection” conference series.

I do expect to blog some from the conference and do expect to submit some stories to my regular outlets while I’m there, so I won’t be completely incommunicado. I’m just not volunteering for any extra work until I get back on Aug. 5 (I’m not going all the way to Italy without taking a few sightseeing days for myself) and wrap up a few other lingering assignments. So there.

Thanks again, David, for a good HWR. However, I don’t get your “Manumussionaries” comment about my post. I see there’s a Healthcare Manumission blog on the list, but I still need further explanation.

July 23, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Global news

I’ve got some international items on the agenda today:

First off, did anyone catch the big “oops” in Australia this week that knocked out telecommunications services across the state of Queensland? Apparently, a backhoe at a construction site cut a cable that took phone lines down statewide, and a major backup system failed as well. The outage reportedly affected phone calls in and out of a number of regional hospitals, but what was not reported was whether any health IT infrastructure was affected. Perhaps that’s a problem in and of itself.

A couple of weeks ago, a health trust in Scotland had to declare a “data amnesty” to encourage employees to return a misplaced USB drive that reportedly contained the health records of 137 patients. Left unanswered is why the records were not secured before being transferred to the portable drive.

I hopefully will be reporting some international health IT news in a couple of weeks, as I’ve been invited to attend one week of the Rockefeller Foundation‘s “Making the eHealth Connection” conferences in Bellagio, Italy. Consider this a solicitation to editors looking for coverage of EHR and mobile-health issues in developing countries.

July 16, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.