The healthcare and mobile industries are very different, and yet the fast-paced mobile industry and the slower-paced healthcare industry are converging rapidly and bringing disruptive changes to both industries.
In the traditional healthcare industry, 10 years is the duration of a typical product lifecycle. In the mobile industry, 10 years represents about 10 product lifecycles. The iPhone is 10 years old and has had 10 major OS releases, whilst Android has had 12 major releases. Meanwhile, it still takes 10 years or more to develop, test and approve a new drug.
Mobile devices and medical devices are converging. Each new generation of smartphone brings new sensors to the market which enables us to measure, detect and monitor bodily functions.
Sensors in smartphones will soon be used to monitor our vital signs at home, replacing tests that previously required expensive and time-consuming medical procedures in clinical environments.
A great example is the AliveCor EKG monitoring device which enables a patient to see their heart’s electrical activity on their smartphone. This takes 30 seconds and saves a 3-hour round trip to the doctor for a traditional EKG.
Mobile devices are transforming clinical workflow by providing clinicians with patient information at the point of care and the ability to upload notes, images and lab results directly to the patient record.
a) replacing paper charts for patient observations
b) replacing pagers for secure messaging within care teams
c) for locating people, assets and test results during rounding and follow-up.
All this means more time can be spent with patients and less time in front of a computer so that critical decision making is improved, clinician fatigue is reduced and patient experience is improved.
Finally, healthcare is being transformed by mobile apps. As of December 2017, there were 325,000 mobile health apps available and 3.7 billion downloads. These figures are astounding.
Apps empower patients and healthy citizens to be more involved in their own health(care). They are more informed, more in control of the process and ultimately more responsible.
There are now 325,000 health related apps available on the iTunes and Google Play stores. With these apps, doctors can be rated, drug prices can be compared, lab tests can be ordered, vital signs can be measured, surgical procedures can be watched and data from wearable devices can be shared.
We are at the cusp of an incredible convergence between the healthcare and mobile industries and, for me, this is possibly the most exciting form of industry convergence in our lifetime.
The tech-focused, fast moving, mobile industry will be challenged by the rigorous FDA approval processes and HIPAA compliance, and these forces will effectively act as a brake to innovation.
The risk averse, slower moving healthcare industry will be challenged by the rate of change, require evidence based proof and will struggle to exploit the opportunities.
Like 2 lanes of traffic merging at different speeds, there will be some collisions and collateral damage to both industries.
Looking ahead, I anticipate the healthcare industry will be penetrated by ‘mobile mavericks’ – mobile technology companies that will morph into successful healthcare service providers. However, some of these may collapse under the weight of the compliance processes.
Likewise, some incumbent healthcare providers may fade into the background and become irrelevant if they fail to innovate and embrace the brave new mobile world their patients live in. Ultimately, we the patients and healthy citizens, will decide which devices to purchase, which apps to download and which providers to trust. Bring it on, I say.