Last year’s historic election brought great optimism about what Congress, working with a new administration, can accomplish to repair our broken health care system.
Today, this system – which so many Americans rely on to protect their health and prevent disease – is costly and dysfunctional, providing myriad reasons for concern and rally points for change.
To name a few:
• Half of all U.S. bankruptcies are the result of medical expenses.
• Approximately 1.5 million families lost their homes last year due to medical bills.
• Health care now accounts for $1 in every $6 spent in the United States.
• As President Obama has pointed out, “The biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing price of health care.”
Despite such bleak statistics, there is good news.
America’s health care crisis is driving innovation and creative thinking. It’s also fostering exciting collaboration between the medical and wireless industries.
Those concerned about rising health care costs and reduced access to quality, affordable care aren’t simply relying on policymakers to tackle these problems. They’re proactively seeking solutions.
This was clear last Wednesday, as dozens of leaders in the medical and wireless technology industries attended CTIA’s “mHealth Solutions and Policy Forum” on Capitol Hill to discuss the latest innovations mobile health.
Dr. Eric Topol, Chief Medical Officer of the West Wireless Foundation, delivered an enthusiastic presentation, highlighting the convergence that’s taking place between medicine and wireless technology. This collaboration has the potential to revolutionize health care delivery, improve millions of lives, and save millions more in tax-payers dollars.
Dr. Topol pointed out that, while many advances have been made over the last few years, the field of wireless health is in its infancy. This burgeoning field includes telemedicine, telehealth, e-health, mHealth, and mobile health. Its players range from small start-up ventures, to Fortune 500 companies, to global health organizations, to leading universities and major foundations, as well as the federal government.
Wireless health includes a broad range of solutions that enable physicians and caregivers to prevent, diagnose, and monitor health conditions in a cost-efficient way. It can also improve treatment management and communication and help pinpoint when intervention is necessary.
How will the future of wireless health look? Imagine patients wearing small sensors that transmit health and activity information to physicians, caregivers, and fitness coaches. Imagine patients taking ingestible pills with tiny sensors that let doctors determine if they are receiving the proper dosage of medication and monitor their caloric intake. Imagine patients wearing “smart Band-Aids” that allow doctors to remotely monitor vital signs such as heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature, as well as weight, glucose level, and oxygen saturation.
These are just a few of the innovations that already exist and will continue to improve. Without question, wireless health experiments will lead to more treatments we’ve never before seen or imagined — and we must support and accelerate this work. Such breakthroughs have the potential to change the world for patients and physicians and, let’s hope, help to make our nation’s ailing health care system well.