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News, 2/6/2013

Team Finland Business by Val Kratzman
February 2013

Where Did Mobile Health Come From?

This will be the first in a series of blogs on mobile health and the concept that home is where the health is. 

This seems a fitting subject as I have taken a short hiatus from Insight Finland to address some of my own medical forays that render me less than mobile (as in able to move). Now that I am once again a biped, let’s take a look at how the phenomenon called mobile health has come to be.

Radio telephony, the foundation for cellular communications, has been traced back to the 1940’s and World War II. Some thirty years later in 1973 Dr. Martin Cooper was credited with inventing the first hand-held mobile phone. As mobile technology evolved we saw a wide array of handsets, its inclusion in other products, and technology extensions including Bluetooth. Today, we talk about smart phones and consider mobile technology ubiquitous. It is embedded in almost everything, especially healthcare, whose adoption has been fast and furious.

What is driving this frenzy? Smart phones? The rising cost of healthcare? Global demographic and generational shifts? Healthcare reform? Advances in sensors and technology in general? Wearable fitness tracking devices? All of it. Why?  Because people want to take better care of themselves. Because consumers and medical professionals understand the value of real-time information to stay healthier. We are experiencing the true birth of preventative medicine; a goal that healthcare has been talking about since 1978 when the first health maintenance organization (HMO) was started as a means to “wellcare.”

The first mobile health device invented in 1975 is credited to the work of Gregory Lektman at Biosig Instruments. He collaborated with several companies included Polar Electro of Finland, which in 1977 introduced the first commercial wireless heart rate monitor. Healthy people -  running and cycling enthusiasts - were able to train and perform better knowing more about their personal and physiological performance. The infection spread and Finland may well be the birthplace of today’s mobile health industry.

As more and more companies introduced heart rate monitors, the technology behind the product was fueled by a parallel technology progression across numerous industries. Boundaries disappeared and sensors became more available, sophisticated, smaller, implantable, injectable, and even tattoo-able. The integration between smartphones and sensors has sprung to life moving medicine, fitness, wellness, and human productivity to new levels, possibly as one industry.

Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf collaborated in 2007 with users and tool makers who shared a common interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking. This was the start of the Quantified Self Movement. Mobile health took a quantum leap forward and Quantified Self lead to Participatory Health, Health at Home and Hospital at Home. In essence the ability to deliver care anywhere.

Do you remember doctors making house calls? Well, this medical practice has returned because mobile technology has eliminated the physical and time barriers between the patient’s home and the hospital. And, mobile health incubators growing new mobile health companies are further enabling the collaboration and communication between doctor and patient that is further fueling the new consumer-centric healthcare ecosystem.

The 45th International Consumer Electronics Show took place this past January in Las Vegas. Over 175 companies exhibited their mobile healthcare products, most of which were not traditional healthcare companies. The rapid consumer and physician adoption of mobile health devices is real and potentially considered the future of healthcare. But the device is only part of the solution. The data is proving to be more important, and the experience of wearing a device a key driver. Doctors and patients alike are adopting and craving the next best medical or health gadget or app.

Insight Finland: MC10 Body SensorMC10 body sensor, which is applied as a tatoo and good for 30 days.

We have seen in the newspaper and book industries how mobile technology has transformed how people read and get their news. In essence, mobile has forced a new business model.  As the traditional print media fades away, so will long lines in doctors’ offices and potentially the need to go to the doctor. The doctor can see you, read your vital signs, diagnosis, communicate, prescribe medicines, record all this on your electronic medical record, and make healthful recommendations because mobile devices are all connected. Meet Connected Health.

Next month I will continue my discussion of mobile health and explore some of new technologies from the fork that wiggles to the car that reads your blood sugar to the $189 iPhone attachment that saves doctors time, the healthcare industry thousands of dollars, and patients’ lives.

Val Kratzman writes a monthly blog on the Finland in the U.S. Newsletter “Team Finland Business” about Finpro U.S. operations, Finnish companies and innovation, and working at the Embassy in D.C., as well as other interesting notions about maneuvering in the local business ecosystem.

Introduction: Finpro Blog by Val Kratzman - Insight Finland

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Updated 10/2/2013

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