Reaching for the Stars: Mobile Devices and Solutions for Healthcare

Fairmont 001 Today I am writing from Banff, Alberta, Canada.  I'm here to keynote at the Wireless Connections 2007 conference at the beautiful Fairmont Banff Springs Resort.  There is a dusting of fresh snow on the ground as I peer outside the window of my room looking directly over the Bow River Valley.  Can ski season be far behind?

Inside the hotel, the staff is busy putting up Christmas decorations.  I cameimage across a crew placing a star on top of a really large tree that adorns the hotel's Rundle Hall.  It struck me that "reaching for the stars" was an appropriate theme for this conference and today's HealthBlog entry.

There are now 3 billion cellular subscribers in the world and 2.7 billion handsets.  Some of the fastest growing markets lie overseas.  India is signing up 200,000 new subscribers every day.  New technology called HPSA (high speed packet access) will bring blazingly fast connections to enable every broadband service you can imagine including full motion video on your mobile device.  I say mobile device because these things aren't just cell phones anymore.  They are becoming every bit as powerful as our computers and in many ways more functional.  Much of this is being driven by the so-called "digital native" generation; young people who know nothing other than being constantly connected and always available.  The rest of us are mere "digital emigrants" remembering a time when sending mail meant something quite different that it does today.

All of this has huge implications for the healthcare industry.  I've written before about the power of Unified Communications and how commodity software will enable personalized tele-medicine and tele-health applications that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago.  Here at the conference there are a number of old and new companies focusing on wireless applications and services for the healthcare industry.  Examples include Intelliview, TELUS, Rogers Communications, InnoTraction, Capital Health, St. Jude Medical, and Dynastream Innovations.  Not attending this conference, but a growing presence in this space is HealthPhone; a company offering highly mobile data capture solutions for healthcare providers who call on assisted living centers and nursing homes.  HealthPhone also has a number of health and wellness services aimed at the consumer market.

image Where is all this going?  In the same way that young people increasingly experience the world through social networking channels (check out the new Zune by the way), service industries are reaching for technologies that will seamlessly connect them to new virtual markets.  Healthcare is no exception.  In fact, the opportunities here may be even greater than those of other industries considering the vast sums of money being spent by consumers, employers, and governments on healthcare delivery and wellness.  Perhaps it is just coincidence that I received e-mail notification today from our Employee Benefits Group that a pilot between Microsoft and a well known Seattle healthcare delivery system  is being expanded and that our healthcare insurer will start paying for "virtual visits" between Microsoft employees and their personal physicians. 

If you are a member of a healthcare provider organization or a hospital or even a private practitioner,  it is time to start reaching for the stars and thinking about healthcare delivery in entirely new ways.  Surely your competition is laying those plans.  And I don't just mean competition in your own back yard, but competition from places like Singapore, India, South Korea, Mexico and Thailand.  And you better believe that the mobile device in your pocket, and healthcare services built around that device, will be taking on an ever greater presence in healthcare delivery.

Bill Crounse, MD   Worldwide Health Director        Microsoft Corporation

Comments (8)
  1. Jason says:

    I took a walk yesterday with my wife along the beach. I looked up and noticed the moon. Its almost hard to believe that man has walked on the moon in our attempt to reach the stars. Then i thought about the technology that has come after those flights to the moon. The focus of much of humanities interest has been on communication.

  2. Peter Beck says:

    The vast majority of practicing MD’s (in the U.S.) are technological Luddites. Less than a fifth — probably closer to a tenth — use EMR; less than 20% of U.S. residency programs teach its use. Not many of my colleagues even have a website for their practices, to say nothing of EMR; and almost none have more than a vague name recognition of "blogs," "search engines," or "podcasts." Feed readers, RSS, SEO, and social media are totally foreign concepts.

    It’s high time physicians enter the 21st century — heck, I’d settle for the 20th.

    Like the progress of general tech adoption, it’ll likely be driven by the younger generation (of physicians), comfortable with its use, as well as leveraging it to great advantage in their practices.

    Those of us still in practice CAN successfully adopt these technologies, if we’re interested in the competitive advantages they bestow, financially and "thought leadership"-wise. But there’s a learning curve, and a lag that early adopters won’t have to deal with.

  3. hlthblog says:

    Thanks for your comments, Peter.  I agree that the next generation of physicians will help drive more widespread adoption of IT in healthcare.  I would urge my colleagues in medical education to encourage the use of  IT.  Far too often I have observed medical educators, themselves uncomfortable with contemporary information worker tools, computers, and PDAs, actually discouraging their use on clinical wards.  That should never happen!

    Bill Crounse, MD  

  4. HealthBlog says:

    I’ve written before on HealthBlog about the importance of providing data input options in IT solutions

  5. I've written before on HealthBlog about the importance of providing data input options in IT solutions

  6. Nice write up on 2 new technologies…worth checking out…. IQMAX partners with Greenway Medical as

  7. HealthBlog says:

    Regular HealthBlog readers know that I often find symbolism in things that I see as I travel the world.

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