Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Future of Healthcare: The Mobile Consultation

I’m sure many of you got a laugh out of the huge controversy stirred up a few weeks ago when the top secret prototype of the new iPhone was “picked up” at a California pub. Apparently an Apple employee mistakenly left the top secret devise behind, only to be scooped up by a technology enthusiast who proceeded to unveil its new 4G features on the Gizmodo website

One of the game-changing features of 4G (or fourth generation) wireless technology is that these devices will include a video-enabled camera built-in to the same side as the screen. As a result, 4G technology will make mobile doctor consultations much more natural and seamless than they are today. With this improved user experience, people will be far more likely to consider the mobile consultation because it will more closely resemble the face-to-face encounter they’ve grown accustomed to.

Keep in mind, the concept of mobile consultations isn’t new, but it’s picked up significant steam with the mass adoption of smart phones over the past few years. In fact, 42% of Americans owned smartphones as of December 2009. Studies suggest the smartphone is the most widely used connected device in today’s healthcare scene, and that it’s poised to become the new norm for delivery. Usage ranges from medical reference tools for providers, to remote physician consultations from consumers’ mobile phones. And don’t forget disaster relief. Recent natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes made mobile healthcare a necessity, as cell phones facilitated remote consultations when patients and medical professionals have been displaced. The creation of applications related to health care is also expanding rapidly. As of February 2010, there were nearly 6,000 health, medical and fitness apps within the Apple AppStore. 

Research also shows that two-thirds of physicians used smartphones in 2009, and the number is expected to reach 81% by 2012. It’s not surprising as the work of most physicians has the potential to be tremendously mobile. Opportunities for increased productivity, revenue generation, and lifestyle satisfaction are available as a physician is less tied down to a location. In a recent TV news story covering InteractiveMD’s telehealth platform, a network physician talks about how he’s been able to help patients remotely while on an airplane and in the mounts during a vacation in Hawaii. Pretty compelling application, and that’s BEFORE the launch of 4G.

So what does this all mean? In the coming three years I see the mobile consultation being viewed as a mainstream (if not preferred) method of seeing the doctor. As 4G takes over and revolutionary new platforms like Apple’s iPad become ubiquitous, the mobile experience will be too good and too convenient to ignore…

~Alex Price, Sr. Manager, PR & Branding
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