Mobile devices are already able to performs tasks we never imaged would be possible and the healthcare industry is likely to benefit more than any other industry. We believe mobile technology will ultimately transform the future healthcare worker and significantly improve the way care is delivered. Here is why we are so excited about mobility in healthcare:
Each sensor in a smartphone is a source of information that provides additional content or context that enriches the user experience. For example, the GPS sensor knows where you are, the accelerometer knows how fast you are moving and the gyroscope knows which way you are facing.
Each of these sensors spawned a multi-billion dollar industry through navigation, fitness tracking and gaming. We can safely predict the same is likely to happen in healthcare in the future. In fact, your smartphone is already packed with sensors that simplify everyday tasks and save time.
Glucometers, blood oximeters, weighing scales, thermometers, blood pressure cuffs and heart-rate monitors are all stand-alone devices today. How many of these medical devices will converge with a mobile device one day in the same way that a camera converged with a mobile device 15 years ago?
Wearables, Nearables & Invisibles
From 1970 to 2010 we saw computing power move from large, expensive back-office infrastructure to small, inexpensive consumer devices that we all use every day. This unlocked the content we need from our back-office systems (e.g. medical records) to be available on progressively smaller screens that cost less. This was the era of information portability.
Since 2010, we have entered the era of true mobility, where the mobile device is complemented by external data sources that enrich a process or user experience. An example in the first phase is a ‘wearable’ device that tracks our heart-rate and exercise and sends that information to a fitness app.
We call the second phase “Nearables” as that is the collection of beacons, RFID, NFC and other proximity devices that provide very precise data in specific situations. An example might be a prompt to a nurse to scrub up as she walks through the hallway to theatre.
Nearables will be around us in many ways, both in our work lives and in our homes. In our work lives, these devices will be used to detect our presence, simplify log-in procedures, capture inventory details, provide reminders and prompt specific actions based on what we are doing. In our private lives, these little devices will be in our household goods, our vehicles and perhaps even in our clothing. Collectively, they will help with comfort, safety and personal well-being.
We are predicting that the volume of these devices will grow exponentially and the cost will decline to approximately $1 per device by 2020. We refer to these tiny sensors as “Invisibles” since they will be invisibly embedded in almost every product we buy and they will silently monitor how those products are used and notify us, and maybe the manufacturer, when there is a fault or a new software update is required for the fridge.
Apps are Getting Smarter
The latest iPhone has machine learning built into the chip-set. Android devices connect to Google’s artificial intelligence platform. Microsoft is building AI into everything they do. Ignoring the hype, we are already seeing artificial intelligence at work in our lives every day. Every time Spotify suggests a song you might like, and every time Google Maps changes your route to work, you are benefiting from AI.
At the end of 2017 there were 325,000 healthcare apps and we are predicting that number to continue growing in 2018 and then start to decline as intelligent apps start to dominate and legacy apps become irrelevant.
In our private lives these intelligent apps will learn from your behaviour patterns, anticipate your needs and entertain you. At work, specifically in healthcare, these will be apps that know your schedule, your patients, your precise location, your task list and your preferences. These apps will help you with clinical decision support, triage your workload and provide you with situational awareness.
The future of healthcare and the future healthcare worker will only be limited by our imagination and ability to conceive what is possible. We all have a role to play in reimagining the future of healthcare. We can start by leveraging the incredible devices that are already in our pockets, embracing the rich network of sensors all around us and exploring the possibilities with artificial intelligence.
Bring it on, I say!