"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.