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Health IT excitement bleeds into wireless show

Wireless data solutions can be built for very little money and deployed widely. Over the long run that will bring in more service fees than an expensive, proprietary solution. Trouble is that in the short run the opposite is the case.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

The cha-ching embodied in the HITECH bill is luring many other industries to the trough. (Picture from the Scripps Institute.)

Take the cellular industry.

I attended the CTIA show a few years ago and heard not a word about medical applications. And I was looking for them, having recently done a long series of blog posts advocating the use of wireless technology for medical monitoring.

The smell of money changes things. This year's CTIA featured a keynote address from Dr. Eric Topol (right) of the Scripps Institute, all about mobile health or mHealth. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg also featured mHealth in his own keynote address.

This is the revolution in health care I was trying to describe at the 2004 Stanford Accelerating Change conference. (I still have the t-shirt.) In my view it was just one potential application space, along with personal inventory and home automation, although I did joke medicine was the "killer app."

In mHealth patients wear monitors for their health conditions and blood sugar levels, or are surrounded by sensors which detect their movements (useful if you have Alzheimer's). The idea is that emergencies can be detected before they happen, saving the lives of those we love.

The dangers here are proprietary technology and price, the one leading to the other.

WiFi is an open standard. WiFi routers are cheap. Many hospitals have improved their operations by building WiFi networks linking departments and people on their campuses. If you want to extend these applications to the world, cellular minutes and SMS messaging are also cheap, especially when bought in bulk.

But the cost of getting a solution, even an existing solution, onto a wireless network and through the FDA process is bound to lead folks to proprietary technologies, with security as their excuse.

It doesn't have to be that way. Wireless data solutions can be built for very little money and deployed widely. Over the long run that will bring in more service fees than an expensive, proprietary solution. Trouble is that in the short run the opposite is the case.

If the industry looks at the long run, instead of the short run, it can build a revolution.

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