11 february 2016

Smart Medical Devices Tailored to Individual Needs

Continuing on the topic of close ties between science and technology in the world, I think that healthcare industry is strongly interested in getting access to the Internet and taking advantage of the latest development tailored to the needs of an individual customer. In the course of our research on the Internet of Things it became clear that this trend is especially obvious in America, from where a good many of the ideas for the introduction of the Internet of Things into healthcare sector come from. For years it was clear that healthcare prices  in the United States  and  the way  the market was organized would lead to its imminent collapse. Healthcare costs are astronomical, people are realizing the importance of taking better care of their health, the population is aging, requirements for provision of medical services are increasing. It was obvious that in this situation public and private health insurance system was doomed to fail. Then the first attempts to establish connection between the  healthcare  sector and the Internet and telecom services sector were made, and several business hybrids have emerged: telemedicine, Internet medicine, remote provision of services. Americans were looking for a solution to save money by cutting expensive visits to doctors.

The most common argument against the online healthcare is, of course, the quality of such medical services. But here it is important to understand that on-line communication is not intended to replace traditional face-to-face patient/doctor contacts.  The point is that many face-to-face physician services can be replaced by some supporting services: for example, a follow-up visit -  by an online communication, when doctor and patient discuss diagnostic results, treatment plan etc. This does not eliminate the presence of a physician – he would always be available in serious cases.

Even now a large number of medical tests a patient can do by himself, there is no need for him to go to the clinic and wait in line at the doctor’s office. There are digital laboratories that perform tests, process, analyze, accumulate data and monitor the patient's condition - all this is done by a robot. A “digital clinic” provides patients with complete packages, the so-called "medical boxes" - a set of devices that take  physical parameters and transmit them to the network. "Medical box"  is a medical information center , an Internet router that provides high-quality patient monitoring. A lot of devices have been tailored to an individual needs of a patient: connected wristbands that transmit information to smartphones can also serve as important  healthcare devices that are worn by a person and can transmit information to a specialized institution.  Only two or three years ago these devices were considered as luxury items, now they are available to everyone.

Many fitness trackers and network-connected  monitoring devices are  also made in Russia. In conducting our research, we found at least 20 digital healthcare startups, and approximately the same number of already established companies in Russia. But there is one nuance: in Russia and, generally, in other parts of the world, these devices are not considered full-fledged healthcare industry participants. Obviously, as long as  smartphones have not been classified as  medical devices (i.e. have no  proper licenses or certificates) no doctor will trust the information received from them; at least that’s what doctors say. Many doctors and  other market participants strongly believe that registration of a smartphone as a medical device will turn the medical services market upside down. Only when smartphone owners  will use alternative methods for health monitorin and physicians  will make decisions and issue sick lists on the basis of the information received from smartphones , the new economy will spring up.