Monday, April 12, 2010

"Wireless health care: When your carpet calls your doctor"

"Wireless health care: When your carpet calls your doctor. The coming convergence of wireless communications, social networking and medicine will transform health care"--that's a headline in The Economist. The article starts witha question about the iPad:

Is it possible that amid all the hoopla about Apple’s iPad, one potential use has been overlooked? Larry Nathanson, head of emergency-medicine “informatics” at one of Harvard Medical School’s hospitals, has experimented with using the device in the casualty ward. He writes that “initial tests with our clinical applications went amazingly well…the EKGs look better onscreen than on paper. It was great having all of the clinical information right at the bedside to discuss with the patient.”

And then come more answers:

Dr Nathanson’s enthusiasm hints at the potential of wireless gadgets to improve health care, and to ensure more personalised treatment in particular. Pundits have long predicted that advances in genetics will usher in a golden age of individually tailored therapies. But in fact it is much lower-tech wireless devices and internet-based health software that are precipitating the mass customisation of health care, and creating entirely new business models in the process.

Wireless health is “becoming omnipresent” in hospitals, according to Kalorama Information, a market-research firm; it estimates that the market for such devices and services in America alone will grow from $2.7 billion in 2007 to $9.6 billion in 2012. Don Jones of Qualcomm, a maker of networking technology, argues that the trend speeds diagnosis and treatment, and saves doctors’ and nurses’ time. GE, an industrial giant, and Sprint, an American mobile operator, have joined forces to offer hospitals such services. GE’s Carescape software allows the secure monitoring of patients’ health via mobile phones, as does rival software from Airstrip.

Yes, indeed, there is much potential in all these systems. But the key word in the previous sentence is "systems," as in plural. Eventually, someone is going to have to figure out how to turn myriad systems into one system, so that it runs as seamlessly as the old Bell System did in its heyday. In the 90s, Microsoft dreamed of MSFT on every computer, in the 00s, it was Google as everyone's search engine. We don't yet know who or what will provide the same integration for health.


  1. “We don't yet know who or what will provide the same integration for health.”

    How about the Mayo Clinic?

  2. After thought:
    And after Mayo & its Systems, then ISO11137-1-2006
    etc. (International Organization for Standardization)
    See: International Standards for Business, Government and Society

    ISO is a potential direction for Medical Systems to go International.

  3. Alas, the regulatory monster is doing its best to prevent this kind of thing. I was just two weeks ago consulting with a friend of mine who makes iPhone software about perhaps doing some medical applications for the iPad when we remembered that HIPAA regulations would apply to such a device and make it next to impossible to produce. To even begin to understand the obligations it would impose (let alone to follow them) would be harder and more costly than producing the system he had in mind.

    There are other implications of this that are worrisome as well. If the government has such massive and uniform access to detailed data about our private lives there are far too many busybodies in the legislature out there who would love nothing more than to order us around in every minute detail of our private lives. The Constitution having been discarded as a limit on government power, impracticality of it all seems to be the only check on their ambitions at the moment and that protection seems to be quickly eroding too.

  4. Hmmm.. I think they need to put all of that in a test before implementing that wireless health care. Thanks for sharing.