Two Young Gasteiners were thrilled to talk about the topic of mHealth with Terje Peetso, Policy Officer at DG CONNECT in the European Commission. Dr Terje Peetso joined the Unit Health and Wellbeing in DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology in 2011. Her main responsibilities are related to the coordination of the implementation of the eHealth Action Plan 2012 -2020 as well as the overall coordination of the policy group in the Unit. At the European Health Forum Gastein 2016, the sessions “Reality meets reality” were organized and moderated by her. She shared her views on the topics and we started with the basics.
YG: What is mHealth?
It is mobile health, where you use your mobile devices for health services. Many of us think it is only limited to the use of applications on cell phones for health, but it reaches much further than that. There are many possibilities in mHealth that are not limited to only cell phones and their apps. It also includes other devices, such as tablets and computers, and other services for example through texting or calling. Some medical questions can be send by texting.
YG: During the “Reality meets reality” session we learned about the development of a code of conduct for mHealth applications in cell phones. How did you involve the different stakeholders in the development of the code of conduct?
Focus groups were organized and were responded to with a lot of interest. During the public consultations, a wide variety of stakeholders were involved. We do notice some stakeholders may not be aware of our activities, but we try to engage them and reach out to them. At European level, we have a good connection with our stakeholders and we keep them informed through our newsletter. They then see the work that we are doing and feedback to us through public consultations. We do not operate through one way traffic.
YG: How will you inform the application developers about the code of conduct once that it has been finalized?
There are three ways in which you could proceed. Firstly, once an application is developed and you want to bring it on the market, you have to go through an app store. At that stage recommendations can be given by the app store to follow the code of conduct. Secondly, different applications may incentivize each other. Once some applications start using the checklist of the code of conduct to optimize their application, they will have an advantage compared to others as customers will have more trust in relation to the application. Finally, we think it is also import to reach out to IT developers in training and lawyers within companies. We can also bring awareness about the existence of a code of conduct at that level. Eventually it will become a quality label.
YG: When it comes to mHealth, how do you see the collaboration between public and private sector in terms of health outcomes?
Many applications are developed in the private sector but benefits can be seen in the public sector. Some examples are applications that help you with nutrition, count your steps or help you to quit smoking. Additionally, some public sectors have developed apps that help with organizational practicalities. I think at this point it is important to match the developments with the needs. The ones who know the problems need to meet with the program developers. It is important however to have a targeted approach. Additionally, involving medical doctors in the development of health applications would be beneficial. This may help to develop apps with high usefulness and medical benefit as only 20 % of the health apps are downloaded more than 1000 times.
YG: How do you think mHealth can provide support to some of the challenges the EU is facing today such as people with health issues on the move or ageing population?
For cross border health care, electronic health records are already providing some of the answers to that. An app that helps to monitor your health status will only be added value to that. For example for diabetes patients, high blood pressure patients or patients with mental health problems. If you record information related to your health status between two visits to a physician, it will be very useful for your doctor to follow up on you. Also information about patients’ lifestyle can be added to that. Although your blood pressure was high, you can for example also look at your physical activity when you recorded your blood pressure through the amount of steps. We need to think about the potential about having this information. For ageing population, I would suggest to focus more on co-creation. The apps need to be tested and readjusted to the needs of specific target population.
YG: We are curious to see how things will evolve. Thank you for answering our questions.
This interview was conducted at the EHFG Conference 2016 by the Young Gasteiner Petronille Bogaert and Oana Motea