Mobile Health 2011: A Look Back at What Really Worked

Stanford Guest House

Mobile Health 2011: What Really Works at Stanford University (#mh11) is over, so it’s time for a quick look back at the conference.  To borrow (steal?) from conference organizer, Stanford Persuasion Technology Lab director, and quick-change artist @BJFogg – I am going to take a retrospective look at my experiences there through the device of ‘home runs’.  For full speaker slide decks, you can click here.

Conference Atmosphere Home Run
I have been to a lot of conferences…pharmacy conferences, medical conferences, informatics conferences, and social media conferences.  However, I have never been to a conference that seemed more along the lines of an ‘event that happens to be interspersed with speakers’.  This is not an indictment of the quantity or quality of the speakers; somehow there were >50 of them smoothly shoehorned into two days.  The comment is more about the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the conference that made it fun and exciting, and contributed to a very collegial vibe.  One of the best aspects of Mobile Health was the extended breaks.  They were just plentiful enough and twice as long as an average conference.  If you think about the old chestnut ‘the best value at a conference is the hallway conversations’…voila! Those breaks doubled the value of the conference.  Also helpful was Fogg’s “giving permission” to all attendees to go up to anyone there and say hello, reinforced by the speakers largely making themselves available after panels concluded.  I’m still undecided about a few things (e.g., the birds and the bees); however, balancing all the West Coast wackiness was the fact that the conference was timed and chimed down to the minute.  Seriously.

Lodging Home Run
It’s almost like this place is a secret or something.  I stayed at the Stanford Guest House for their conference rate of $109.  You can barely stay at a Roof Rouge near a major city for that.  The rooms and hotel were basic and a little Spartan, but the beds were comfortable, the place was immaculately maintained, and the staff was gracious and knowledgeable.  The deal-maker was that the Stanford Shuttle (Marguerite) had pick-ups ~ every 20 minutes to take you all over the campus.  There was also a Guest House shuttle that could be reserved (e.g., to take you to the Alumni Center‘s conference venue).  The only drawback was that there were no dining options in-house or within easy walking distance.  Definitely will stay here again next time I’m at Stanford.

Almost Made Me Apply for a Job in Public Health Home Run
Sharon Bogan.  You just have to love somebody with that kind of spirit, fighting the good fight, excerpting Monsters, Inc., innovating in resource-limited settings, and inviting litigation (for others).  Everyone I’ve met from King County Public Health going back to the mhealth Summit has been a gem.

Goosebump Home Run [tie]
Green Goose and Proteus ingestible event markers.  Check them out.  Seriously.  They *literally* gave me goose bumps in thinking of potential applications of their technologies during their presentations.
Honorable mention: Google Cow presented by Google’s Chief Health Strategist (@rzeiger).  Technically he was focusing on Google Body, but since I had already seen Body I was pretty happy to see the bovine version.

Reunion Home Run
It was great to see @chiah @EndoGoddess @JenSMcCabe  KarenCoppock  @LarryChu  @SFCarrie  @SusannahFox and loads of others again!

New Peeps Home Run [misc]
If you are worried about our future, know that we are in good hands with people like @hcolelewis coming on the scene
Most likely to isosceles with regarding mHealth, PAHO, & Uruguay @JuanMZorrilla
Most likely to invite for Skype in guest lecture in my Consumer Health Informatics course @QpidMe
Most likely to explore the mHealth studies based out of our campus in Puerto Rico with @MarcosPolanco
Most surprised to find in my back yard Vic Shroff
Note: any conversations that included words like NDA, lawyer, or launch are not listed here for obvious reasons.

Failed to Connect at All Strikeout
I would have liked to have spoken with @enochchoi

Conversationus Interruptus Strikeout
The Keck and and PHI guys

Best Laid Plans Strikeout
Climate control and the janky A/C resulted in groups of attendees going to the outer hall and watching panels on a screen and/or going outside to cool off.
(Dis)honorable mention: minimal power outlets/juice available was surprising.  This problem was offset somewhat by the length of the breaks which allowed for both networking and recharging.

Least Favorite Panel
The Partnerships panel was my least favorite.  It definitely had eye-opening moments for some attendees and there were interesting discussions and placements (e.g., possibly the least and most idealistic two people at the entire conference were seated next to each other).  However, most of the discussions were pretty familiar to me from having gone through many of the processes described.  So my bias/preference would have been to have instead heard more specifics about MedPedia from James, Medic Mobile or Social from Josh, etc.

Overall Favorite Panel
Very tough decision as there were several really outstanding ones.  I considered a tie here but was able to pull the trigger and name “Methods and Measures for Research and Evaluation” as my favorite overall panel.  The moderator and panelists all had great content to share and illuminated a lot of the challenges in conducting research in this space.  Plus the Open mHealth initiative is so encouraging!  I think this panel is a ‘must view’ for everyone as it can help in introducing a common language that could lead to better coordination and scaling of efforts as well as providing guidance for individuals.  Overall, the quality and detail of this panel was exemplary.  I ended up choosing it in part based on the criteria of ‘if I could only have the full video of one panel’ because of its high utility for me and in sharing with multiple audiences.  Many of the slide decks from this panel are here.

Final Verdict
I am definitely happy I attended both the pre-conference workshop by @BjFogg (although it mostly served to whet my appetite for the full Boot Camp) as well as the conference proper.  I have been to some good conferences that were one-offs, but will absolutely figure out a way to make it back to Mobile Health next year.  My two most substantial takeaways were that the construct of this conference was singular in nature and that it was probably easier to connect with potential collaborators here than at any other conference I’ve attended.


Update: other perspectives on the conference have previously been posted here by @thulcandrian of and a take on mHealth by @geoffclapp here.

Update 2. Here is a new conference highlights post by Craig Lefebvre (who I wish I had realized was @chiefmaven when I met him there)

Update 3: ‘Text in the City’ founder Katie Malbon has written the most ambitious mh#11 wrap-up to date

Update 4: If @TextInTheCityNY had the most ambitious/complete post, @geoffclapp has added the most thoughtful and thought-provoking review to date

Update 5: From the ‘people I wish I had a chat with’ file at #mh11, @AndrewPWilson has now provided his main takeaways from Stanford

Update 6: Patient-centric thought bubbles and more from rep @msaxolotl at #mh11

Update 7: Jeff Kellem (@slantedhall) provided a tech-focused list of quick hits from the conference

Update 8: David Doherty (@3GDoctor) has added the most contrarian view of the conference to the conversation here