By: Fatema Fatakdawala
With the rapid spread of wireless technology and the internet across the globe, mobile healthcare is gaining more and more interest from a consumer perspective. In the developed world, IT specialists, medical device makers and smart phone-carrying physicians and patients alike are being introduced to the advantage and convenience of mHealth. While this can pose a barrier to the non-technical savvy over 50’s demographic, it has proven its benefits towards the rest of the Canadian population.
Speculation aside, ABI Research estimates that there will be 15 million medical de
vices by 2012 – including innovations from smart pill bottle caps, through to electronic medical record (EMR) sharing in real time. The Wi-Fi enabled healthcare product market will be worth an estimated $US4.9 billion in 2014. But the million dollar question is, due to the regulations and data security requirements around healthcare information, will this industry be standardized or fragmented?
In the absence of standardization, the advances in medical devices remain ad hoc. On the other hand, by using a centralized approach, these very devices are prone to lack ‘sex appeal’ and less likely to be adopted. Either way, with the amalgamation of technology from device giants such as Medtronic, cloud service companies such as Telus and brands such as Apple, the future of mobile healthcare looks rosy. On the other hand, will regulatory bodies such as Health Canada and the FDA create barriers for this industry in terms of the status of approval for healthcare apps on iphones for example?
Zooming out to the bigger picture, these advances in mHealth will have a direct impact on the way medicine is practiced today. Just as antibiotics changed mortality rates, so too will the advent of wireless technology. But these advances will be dependent on the speed of the internet to drive the change. The patient-physician encounter, the pharmacist interaction and the information available to the patients will all be subject to change. In my opinion, standardization is necessary but not required.
Fatema joins the RIC team as the Communications Officer responsible for marketing, social media, event and web management. She is a graduate student pursuing her final year in the Master of Biotechnology program at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
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