The proliferation of cell phones and mobile internet technology will revolutionize the global health care industry, according to a panel of public health and communication experts discussing the future of healthcare at the GMIC conference on Friday.
From SMS technology that utilizes reminders to inform patients about medicine dosage, to smart-phone apps helping diabetics track blood sugar levels and video conference technology allowing doctors to issue long-distance diagnoses, new technologies will drive health care reform, the panelists said.
David Alstrom, managing director of Symbio, emphasized that cell-phone technology, with more than 2 billion global cell phone users, has a higher penetration rate than broadcast television. In the case of a pandemic or urgent health outbreak, SMS and other cell-phone communication channels are often the easiest, most effective way for a government to spread vital information, Alstrom said.
Liu Qingyu, the founder of the Joint Asia Public Health Initiative based in Beijing, stressed the importance of mobile technology oversight to stop the spread of harmful rumors in the public health realm. He said that during the 2003 SARS outbreak, rumors were rampant, and oversight lax. Mobile technology, he said, will open powerful communication platforms between physicians and patients, but ultimately authoritative sources must verify information.
While the proliferation and monetization of social media sites has perhaps been the key tech story of the past decade, the panelists agreed that opportunities in the public health mobile internet realm are abundant.
“There are hundreds of ways for an entrepreneur to break into the market,” Alstrom said, “I could talk all day about the opportunities.”
One of the most exciting potentials is the ability for patients to personalize their health and wellness issues, Cheuk Lee, General Manager of the Complete Medical Group, said. With smart phones, he said, researching and downloading apps to deal with personal health issues is increasingly common. Common health problems can be solved easier, he said, when millions of mobile users collaborate and innovate.
“Health is not about technology, it’s about people.” Lee said “ What is the problem we’re trying to solve? In the end, that’s what matters.”