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How Mobile Technologies Fuel TeleHealth Advances

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, September 17, 2012

The second value proposition, Kvedar says, is just-in-time care. "We give providers a dashboard view of their population, informed by all of these sensor data, connected health data that are streaming in from those patients, and then enable those clinicians to reach into the lives of individuals who need the most at that moment in time," he says.

The sheer power of smaller, cheaper, and faster healthcare is evident in today's mHealth solutions; dermatology, Kvedar's specialty, has been an early beneficiary. "When I started doing this work, the camera we used was a $12,000 device that was about the size of a shoebox, and it had less than one megapixel resolution," he says. "Now you can do everything on your iPhone or your Android smartphones, so teledermatology is coming into its own. We finally are at the point where the technology to effect image capture and history entry is so easy that anyone can do it on the fly, and the amount of incremental time that the referring provider needs to put in is almost zero."

The cardiac patient remote monitoring app Kvedar mentions happens to be delivered in a tabletop device made by McLean, Va.–based ViTel Net, which is owned by the Bosch Group, but only because that patient demographic is less comfortable using a tablet or phone interface. But more and more, tablets and phones are the form factor of choice, Kvedar says.

Despite some continuing data breaches, security of health data on mobile devices is improving, Kvedar says. "I think it's a solved problem, to the degree that any information these days is always subject to being hacked," he says. "You can never say glibly, ‘That'll never happen,' but we use secure sockets, we use all kinds of authentication tools, we make sure our vendors pass a very rigorous security audit, so we're very particular about privacy and security and take it very seriously so that we can protect and maximize our patients' privacy. I don't see it as a big barrier."

In an age where "there's an app for that" is a catchphrase, healthcare is grabbing its share of the spotlight. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Eric Topol, MD, chief academic officer of Scripps Health, a five-hospital, $2.5-billion nonprofit health system in San Diego, made headlines by appearing during a keynote speech and recounting his use of an experimental device, the AliveCor iPhone ECG.

Doubling as an iPhone case, the AliveCor ECG includes two outward-facing sensors. "You just make a circuit with your heart," Topol told the CES audience. The phone displays the patient's cardiogram. "I use it in clinic now all the time for my patients instead of a regular cardiogram."

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