Top Five Trends Changing the Game in Global Healthcare IT
Written by Randy Rountree, EVP of Global IT & Strategic Alliances.
These days, doctors are almost as likely to use an iPad or other mobile device on their rounds as they are a stethoscope. In fact, noted cardiologist, Eric Topol, hasn’t carried a stethoscope in two years, preferring to examine his patients with a handheld ultrasound unit to view a patient’s heart in real-time.
In 2012 alone, physicians in the U.S. are expected to increase their use of smartphones and tablets by 81 per cent
Meanwhile, 80 per cent of the 7 billion people on the earth have cell phones, many of which are smartphones. And more than 2.2 billion people, one-third of the world's population, have access to the Internet.
The mobility ship has sailed.
Mobile devices and other technological advances are quite simply revolutionizing how we do healthcare around the world. And while it’s true that not every doctor is embracing the transformation—my own doctor, for example, has no intention of changing the way he practices medicine, it’s served us both well for the last 30 years—but the mobility wave is more than lapping at our ankles. Universal acceptance is coming. Soon.
Just take a look at how health care and other industries are using tablets
But let’s not assume that device proliferation and internet access solves all. Another critical issue—perhaps the most critical issue—in global healthcare IT is real time data access. Most of the developing world doesn’t have fibre optic cable running to their businesses, so they don’t have the bandwidth needed to handle big data without slow load times. For the iPad or other devices to be of real value in delivering global healthcare, physicians need to be to use them anywhere, with real-time data access. So, without high-speed web infrastructure in the developing world, we have to develop solutions for users who rely more on cellular technology—technology that’s limited by lower-powered mobile devices and weaker cellular networks.
Meanwhile, the mHealth industry is advancing technology and overcoming obstacles. Around the world, there is a huge variety of networks, systems and devices and the industry has to find ways to deliver medical technology that works on any device, with any access limitation, anywhere. In the next little while, I’ll explore some of the trends and issues arising out of these challenges and share
observations—mine and others—as the revolution continues.Mobility
Mobile adoption is on the rise around the world, but there are some variations in how it’s used. Developed countries are seeking mobile interactivity around patient records and diagnostic images for multi-physician collaborative care. In Asia, where there is high comfort with mobile, demand is for access and sharing more than interactivity today.Data security
Laptops get stolen. Phones get lost. And healthcare providers, insurers, and their lawyers stay up nights trying to figure out how to keep patient data safe. Not me though. We’ve already figured this out by never actually moving, copying, duplicating or downloading patient data.Global accreditation and standardization
Everyone who plays in this space is aware of the thorough process required to receive regulatory approval in various parts of the world. We have received clearance from the FDA, Health Canada, CE Mark in Europe and we are working on getting approval from the SFDA in China. I’ll talk more about this robust process that can take a couple of years in a later post.Global adaptivity
Operating around the world requires translating into different languages. Our product has been translated into 11 languages—including Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Italian, French and German. But that’s the easy part. mHealth providers also have to design different user interfaces and modify application workflow to adapt to different users around the world.Integration and scalability
Current systems don’t necessarily work well with each other or with the new technologies hitting the market. To truly support efficient workflow, healthcare providers need to find ways to support data sharing and retrieval across existing legacy systems and with new technologies, like mobile applications. In the medical imaging space, this means allowing access to a hospital’s PACS system from a mobile device or web browser and then allowing a radiologist to modify the patient data for storage.
Patients may or may not be aware of these challenges. And frankly, they may not care. As far as they’re concerned, technology has improved their lives in a myriad of other ways. Remember Walkman’s? Do you even remember cassettes? Right. And faster than you could say “I am going to put my playlist on shuffle,” the technology advanced and made music—all our music—instantly accessible. Consumers see how technology has changed their lives and they’re demanding health care keep up.
Just ask PWC
. It reports: “if the promise of mHealth is realized by consumers, the impact on healthcare delivery could be significant and fundamentally alter traditional relationships within the healthcare industry.”
So whether you’re reading this on a tablet, your phone, or an old fashioned PC, we encourage you to read our other articles on the principles that are shaping the global healthcare industry: