European healthcare providers, clinicians and technology firms involved in developing mobile healthcare applications and technologies are to be invited to join a European Mobile Health Alliance to be launched in May.

The new European body is to be established as the European arm of MoHCA (Mobile Healthcare Alliance), a non-for-profit association dedicated to promoting the spread of mobile computing in health by encouraging the exchange of information and ideas between technology suppliers and healthcare organisations.

MoHCA established its first office in Washington DC last year and is now looking to develop chapters in Europe then Asia.

Claudia Tessier, executive director of MoHCA, told E-Health Insider that the aim was to identify a European affiliate to help address mobile health issues on a global basis. "We’re looking for anyone interested in the development of mobile health applications, from technology vendors to hospitals and individual clinicians".

She said MoHCA’s purpose is to provide a forum that brings the business, academic and clinical communities together, to exchange ideas. "If you develop mobile devices and applications in a vacuum, without reference to clinicians, they won’t get very far".

MoHCA is also working to promote standards and guidelines for developing and implementing mobile applications, and pushing for further advances in wireless technology to address connectivity, performance, security and integration issues.

Peter Waegemann, vice-chair of MoHCA and CEO of the Medical Records Institute, told E-Health Insider that the European arm of MoHCA would work to identify the specific European needs of mobile healthcare.

"Examples (of European-specific issues) might be privacy and data protection, which are very different in the US," said Waegemann.

He added that because of the differences between different European states there might eventually also be a need for local Mobile Healthcare Alliances in individual European countries. "But first we need to establish a mobile health umbrella organisation".

Waegemann, a leading figure in international efforts to develop electronic health records, stressed that mobile health devices and applications are a vital technology for widespread adoption of electronic patient records. "Mobile handheld devices are the crucial element for a breakthrough on EPR, as they will enable doctors to access and enter clinical information at the point of care."

He added that the benefits of mobile health were already being clearly demonstrated: "Hospitals and clinics that have been early adopters have shown tremendous returns".

MoHCA will launch its European affiliate at the M-Health Europe conference, Maastricht, The Netherlands, 14-16 April, 2002. To find out more about MoHCA e-mail Claudia Tessier or call Tel 00 (1) 202-452-0889.