Philly life sciences forum addresses issues of health care innovations

    Pennsylvania Bio, a trade group for the life sciences sector, is gathering medical innovation and health technology companies for a forum in Philadelphia Wednesday.


    Cardiologist Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president for the online wellness company HealthFleet, is joining an afternoon debate about health care innovations that run on smartphones and computer tablets.

    “Right now this is an unregulated space,” Pegus said.

    In a preview of the “Life Sciences Future” forum, Kerry McDermott said that, right now, it’s hard for hospital CEOs — and consumers — to know really know what works and what doesn’t. One key to sifting the “hype” from the “helpful,” she said, is to look for solutions that have real customers and let doctors do their jobs better.

    “These apps have to be integrated into to the work flow of medicine,” said McDermott, senior director for health care technology policy for West Health.

    Tighter oversight is coming soon for some mobile applications.

    In September, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials defined which mobile apps need government approval before they go to market.

    Apps such as a hand-held ultrasound machine–or perhaps a cell phone that can track electrical activity in the heart will receive FDA oversight similar to traditional medical devices.

    “But not every company has something that’s that specific,” Pegus said. “There are much broader uses for mobile technology.”

    “There’s a big difference between your pacemaker malfunctioning versus something like a mobile app that’s maybe just a dietary tracking log,” McDermott said.

    At the forum, she’s expecting tough questions about privacy. There are evolving ideas, McDermott says, about what health information is protected and what isn’t.

    “You’ve got to draw the line somewhere,” she said. “Do I necessarily want my grocery shopping habits known to people doing data analytics on me to predict a condition that I may or may not have?”

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