After struggling with a very difficult decision, we have decided not to attend the mHealth Summit hosted by the Foundation for the National Institute of Health.

From the mHealth Summit web site: “The mHealth Summit: A public-private partnership of the Foundation for NIH, is an unprecedented event that will bring together researchers, policy-makers, collaborators and visionaries from around the world to exchange ideas, novel approaches, research and findings surrounding mHealth issues both in the United States and in developing countries.”

Mission statement of the Summit:

“The mission of the mHealth Summit is to explore the use of mobile technologies to improve public health, particularly regarding underserved populations; health research, training, and education applications; and delivery systems, in the U.S. and around the world.”

To the best of my knowledge, the Kyield healthcare platform is the most novel in the world relative to meeting the mission and objectives of the Summit, but the mHealth policies contain a fatal flaw that may prevent those who engage from achieving an economically sustainable model, without which it will be impossible to achieve their stated goals. The applicants for the mHealth technology presentations were required to be free to consumers (see quote at bottom of article).

While the proposed model for our semantic healthcare platform is currently “free” to consumers, professionals are well aware that this is a misleading statement. The consumer of course pays for the service, but may do so through insurance premiums or taxes. In fact we simply cannot know yet which economic model will prevail as it depends in part on choices made in the future by regulators, consumers, and industry partners, aka the market.

An additional troubling issue is that Bill Gates has agreed to be the keynote speaker. I clearly recall as an early booster to Microsoft in the early 1980s when Bill was battling the destructive economic force of “amateurs” providing free open source software. He correctly argued then that an industry built on free services could not support the essential ecosystem required of the challenge and also achieve the vast potential of the technology. I and many others supported Microsoft then in part due to their economic model, which was dependent upon a very diverse ecosystem of primarily small business developers to serve customer needs. The Microsoft model was then a powerful force in helping the economy emerge from a deep recession, particularly in Washington State following the Boeing crisis.

I argue strongly that healthcare technologies cannot be supported financially by advertising, government, and/or philanthropic models alone. Indeed, it is a tragic mistake to use the mHealth platform in an attempt to force this unrealistic economic idealism on emerging novel applications. Regardless of location, patients need not more dependence on gatekeepers with conflicting interests, but rather empowerment to make better decisions based on actual data, certainly to include economic choices that lead to sustainable systems. The novel innovations the Summit sponsors are seeking similarly do not need charity, but rather viable and sustainable economic models with the flexibility to test various models free from ideology or strategic conflicts.

The leading cause of unsustainable healthcare costs in the U.S. is the lack of functional markets due to just this type cultural influence. Whether sourced from idealism or strategic conflicts, the results are the same. Are medical devices and pharmaceutical ventures required to provide free services to consumers to be included in this mHealth global network? Are doctors and hospitals required to provide free services? Are foundation staff members required to work for free? I assume not.

Free is not a sustainable economic model. In the near term the model serves the interests of predatory pricing strategies by those very few entities that can afford historic price wars. In the long-term free economic modeling leads to dependency on entrenched interests, which is precisely how our healthcare system became unsustainable. As the decision maker for Kyield, I therefore cannot in good conscience support or participate in the mHealth Summit.

Mark Montgomery
Founder & CEO

PS: The actual mHealth Summit language for Research Technology Demonstrations (after a paragraph of technologies sought):

“Technologies must have a demonstrated health research application, and be alpha/beta prototypes or available to consumers free of charge. Commercially available technology are not eligible for this technology demonstration session, but can be shown on the exhibit floor…”

2 thoughts on “Why Kyield is not supporting the mHealth Summit

  1. Mark:

    As one of the sponsoring partners of the mHealth Summit, I am sorry you are not coming. But the reason you gave is based on a misunderstanding. You set up a strawman of us only endorsing open source software and then machine gunned it.

    There is no Summit policy for or against open source software, or for or against proprietary software. Both have a role in mHealth, eHealth and the economy generally. We simply made a policy that in the area where we will provide space for free demonstrations, folks can apply to show either alphas or betas of proprietary technology, or open source inventions.

    To support the costs of the Summit, we are asking those who are selling commercially available products to buy a regular booth — just like you do in most every conference I have ever attended.
    As we said: to be eligible for free demonstration, technology must “be alpha/beta prototypes or available to consumers free of charge. Commercially available technology are not eligible for this technology demonstration session, but can be shown on the exhibit floor…”

    Best wishes,

    David Aylward
    Executive Director
    mHealth Alliance

    1. David,

      Your comments are frankly completely contradictory and lacking credibility (as I point out in the piece, the policy directly attacks the stated mission of the organization). I too have been around a while, including assisting government agencies pro-bono for 30 years (worldwide, including many groups like the UN & NGOs), and attending far too many conferences. I understand what is taking place — products free to consumers are being promoted by the Summit — as clearly stated, while commercial applications are welcome to buy expensive booths for those apparently few prospects who still work in the private sector and happen to stroll by on breaks. This is presumably for access, which we obviously already have, so what the Summit is offering is frankly insulting to me and many others I’ve heard from privately.

      The policy and culture is obviously designed to replace the current and past economic structure in the U.S., which pays for all foundations and government, with a system that has failed to a much greater degree than ours during the past few years, believe it or not. I understand the frustration and culture, but the Summit is simply wrong on this topic, and shouldn’t be supported by anyone until it changes policy– completely opposite of what is actually needed in this economy, obviously.

      I am quite certain that your policies do far more harm than good in the long run for patients worldwide, which is why I voiced my concerns in public.

      That said, I do appreciate your comments. — MM

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