How Wireless Medicine Is Changing the Way You'll Practice

Neil Versel


May 19, 2010

In This Article


Wireless medical technology -- once considered esoteric -- is starting to reach critical mass, and within a few years it is likely to transform the way you provide patient care.

McKinsey & Co. estimates that the US market for mobile healthcare is about $20 billion, and the global market is between $50 billion and $60 billion. Another research firm, Parks Associates, says that US sales of wireless home-health technology will grow from $304 million in 2009 to $4.4 billion in 2013.

Mobile healthcare covers everything from cellular phones to ambulance-based telemedicine to home-based patient monitors to implantable sensors. But no matter what the device or technology, "m-health" is all about opening up channels of communication among healthcare professionals and patients to improve people's health and wring some inefficiency from the system.

This new generation of technology, which includes such items as "smart" bandages that record vital signs and even global positioning system locators to keep tabs on those with Alzheimer's disease, can be the basis for what some have referred to as "body-area networks." Others have given the name "nana technology" to monitors that help improve the quality of life for older adults who otherwise might be institutionalized.

Medical Innovation Takes a Giant Step

In May 2009, billionaire Gary West and his wife, Mary, pledged $45 million to establish the first independent nonprofit research institution dedicated to wireless and mobile technologies in healthcare.

The West Wireless Health Institute, in La Jolla, California, exists "to cut healthcare costs by identifying, creating, validating, and commercializing the use of wireless technologies to transform medicine," according to its mission statement.

West Wireless will advocate for policies that enable investment in wireless technologies and help accelerate products to market, although it is not a lobbying organization. The institute already has assembled a staff of scientists and business specialists to aid in its mission, and the institute will offer basic advice, research services, and technical expertise about developing and marketing new products.

"This is a remarkable opportunity," says Chief Medical and Science Officer Joseph Smith, MD. Medicine is becoming "more of a team sport," involving physician, patient, and family members, according to Smith, so coordination of care is gaining in acceptance.


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