For over a decade now, I have monitored the development of and even beta-tested new products and services, each of which were going to enable an aging population to stay engaged and in communication with their peers, families and friends, and even with their physicians, all through the magic of technology. The core platform of several of these was video conferencing. The core platform of another was a TV-based web browser. I am convinced that the real deal is now here and it is mobile healthcare.
By mobile healthcare I mean both mobile phones and more recently products like Apple's new i-Pad. Smart phones can now ferry much more data, including imagery, than previous mobile phones. This is allowing physicians to bring medicine to remote geographic areas and to extend their offices to home-bound patients.
The i-Pad is a wholly different animal. It has a wonderful screen: big, easy-to-read, and a very intuitive graphic display, for both health care professionals and their patients. Very much driven by the quality of the apps that have been developed for it, the i-Pad takes mobile healthcare up several notches. It can become the charting device used by both nurses and physicians inside the hospital. Native applications developed for the i-Pad are enabling Electronic Medical Records, access to the approved drug formulary broken down by individual healthcare provider, and many other very handy tools. Looking into the near future, one can see how physicians will be able to remotely view the performance of pacemakers and other medical devices worn by many of their older patients.
For patients who can afford them, an i-Pad could provide a gateway to their doctor's office and to MRIs and other imagery with clear graphics that can be easily read. For those who can't afford them, it begs the question: if devices like these are the future of medicine, how do we get them into the hands of everyone who needs one?