MobiHealth DC – Innovators in Mobile Health

“An artist is someone with the ability to make visible what everyone feels” — Martha Graham,  Modern Dance Pioneer

Are you feeling dismayed? Maybe a little distracted by the preventable battle being played out in the news that will have such large consequences for the country?

""The focus of the Distinct Studios blog is creativity and design, not politics, but I was feeling both dismayed and distracted about the debt ceiling battle this week until I attended an event Thursday evening called MobiHealth DC at the offices of Sapient in Arlington, VA. It renewed my faith that there are some amazing individuals from diverse backgrounds solving big problems and having a positive impact on the lives of others.

First, Loren Frant, Head of Health Information Products Unit at the National Library of Medicine made me feel proud of the skill and commitment of federal employees with her concise presentation about the production of MedlinePlus Mobile, the web-optimized version of MedlinePlus.  In 7 minutes, she outlined the background of the project, presented an overview of the content and discussed the future of the product.  The panel moderator, Dr. Caterina Lasome of the National Cancer Institute was another example of an amazing person working for federal government (and therefore working on our behalf).  We’ve been fortunate.

Two other speakers, entrepreneurs in the medical space who exemplify creativity and ingenuity, also made presentations.

Josh Nesbit of Medic Mobile, a nonprofit organization, talked about his work in Africa and other countries. Medic Mobile uses  mobile technologies to promote better medical outcomes by providing health workers with mobile phones to improve the coordination of medical services and save more lives.  His talk generated some gasps from the audience when he showed photos of medical records libraries in Africa where patient records were stacked up in disheveled piles with no filing and no protection from the elements. The picture was worth a thousand words.

Doug Naigle of Infield Health was a little dismayed about following Mr. Nesbit’s talk, since it was a hard act to follow, but he did a great job offering the audience a alternative way of looking at the development of medical mobile apps.

The key was the concept of active data versus passive data. The majority of mobile health apps require the patient to actively enter data which usually results in engagement for a few days, but then the patients get bored and stop. Passive data technologies record readings from a patient and do not require them to enter any information.

I was  impressed with a project being developed by Carnegie Mellon which showed a specially-wired coffee pot that could be installed in a senior citizen’s home and could record subtle changes in a senior’s capabilities as they made coffee.  The work had major implications for patient monitoring since subtle changes in the elderly could point to other losses in functioning.

During the Q&A portion of the evening, Josh Nesbit offered this insight about problem solving: When you are working on a project that has many challenges, there are two questions to keep in mind —  “What are the circumstances?” and “What are the incentives?”

I’ve made a note about this idea for the future: Keep circumstances and incentives in mind as you work to solve problems and create work of long-term value.

Special thanks to Sapient and the other participants for a great event!

Feel free to share information about  interdisciplinary creative projects that you think have value!

Thank you for your attention and have a good week!



Infield Health

Medic Mobile


National Library of Medicine

National Cancer Institute