Digital Health, Mobile Health, mHealth, etc Is Just Health?

Last week, the big news in the world of healthcare IT was that HIMSS acquired Health 2.0. You can check out the great writeup of the acquisition by Andy Oram. This acquisition was interesting since Health 2.0 had largely tried to be the anti-HIMSS for so long. There were others doing so as well like the mHealth Summitt and the Connected Health Conference, but those have all been acquired by HIMSS as well.

It’s no surprise that running a conference focused on startup companies doing innovative things in healthcare is a hard business. Startup companies have no money and so they can’t spend on oversized booths like the large vendors at HIMSS do. Indu and Matthew did what they could with Health 2.0, but it’s a challenging business. It will be interesting to see how things go under the HIMSS umbrella.

I know that Matthew Holt who started Health 2.0 has been beating the drum for a long time that there’s no such thing as mobile health or mHealth or Digital Health. There’s just healthcare. So, in some ways it makes sense for something like Health 2.0 to be part of a healthcare IT organization like HIMSS.

For the most part, I agree with Matthew on there not being a difference. However, I think that what this misses is that within the healthcare IT world there are companies at different stages of development. I divide these companies into 3 categories: Large Enterprise Companies, Middle Tier Companies, and Startup Companies. We could slice and dice some more, but I think this is a good framework for thinking about the industry.

Whether you liked the description of digital health or mobile health or mHealth, those terms came to represent what most people would consider startup healthcare IT companies. That’s what Health 2.0 and a few other conferences came to represent. Despite many efforts on their part to expand in other ways, HIMSS has largely come to represent the large enterprise companies. They’ve done so in a really fantastic way, but these large enterprise companies kind of suck the wind out of events like the HIMSS Annual conference.

What’s interesting to me is that the middle tier healthcare IT companies haven’t really had a place to go. Sure, they might go to HIMSS, but they generally do smaller booths and they go to show they’re a player in the space versus going to attract customers and do business deals. Same goes for Health 2.0. They might attend Health 2.0 to see what’s happening in the market, but it’s not a great event for their businesses generally either.

Along those same lines, I think that most middle tier hospitals and healthcare organizations get left out as well. They’re too small to be able to be the pilot site for a startup company and they get lost at an event like HIMSS. These middle tier healthcare organizations are interesting because they have money to spend if they can find something that works. However, they don’t have the bandwidth to be someone’s innovation center for something that might work.

No doubt, digital health is just becoming part of the overall healthcare system. However, the division between size of companies and the maturity of their products is not going to change. Not to mention the needs of the various sized healthcare organizations. It will be interesting to see what happens to Health 2.0 under HIMSS and how the market continues to evolve to better serve its stakeholders.