Digital Health: How the Industry Can Overcome a Key Barrier

October 28, 2016

Rob Childs, Health Vertical Engagement Manager, GSMA

rc-bioThere can be little doubt that digital technology is fundamentally improving healthcare. The harnessing of IT and the conversion from paper to electronic health records has significantly improved the time and accuracy with which medical information can be retrieved, and was hailed as one most important medical advances of the decade. The last couple of years have seen a new development: the influx of wearable fitness devices. This has given people the opportunity to greatly increase their ability to manage and monitor their health by having access to real-time measurements such as heart-rate and distance travelled. According to research house IDC, such devices continue to grow in popularity, and will continue to do so as their cost decreases.

These developments, amongst others, are a signpost to the increasing value of data in healthcare; indeed, it is data and our use of it, that has the potential to revolutionise healthcare.

The advantages of sharing data across medical institutions and platforms has already been demonstrated. For example, last year’s operator-led mHealth Grand Tour enabled cyclists with diabetes new ways in which they could monitor their performance and condition. The data from blood-glucose meters, heart monitors and distance trackers was integrated and displayed on a single smartphone app, and the users could choose to share this data with healthcare professionals who could monitor their health condition remotely.

There are good reasons to expect near real-time analysis and remote monitoring to become a staple feature of healthcare in the not-to-distant future. We know this because even those who aren’t aware of this technology would  far rather be treated in their own home.

This point was a key theme of the Connected Health 2016 Symposium, hosted in Boston earlier this month. Here, experts discussed the growing demand –particularly amongst the elderly population- for patient-centric care, whereby point of treatment comes to the patient, rather the patient going to the treatment.

This demand is taking place against the backdrop of rising healthcare costs and increasing strain on public healthcare services across the globe. According to PwC, healthcare costs in the U.S. are projected to rise by 6.5% in 2017 – significantly outpacing general economic inflation. They suggest that the consequence of this will be ‘a recalibration on cost-saving strategies’.

PwC also suggest that digital health solutions will be a key factor in providing more cost-effective healthcare. They estimate that Digital Health could save €99 billion in healthcare costs to the EU, or $14 billion USD in Brazil and $3.8 billion USD in Mexico, if it reaches scale.

The extent to which digital health solutions can be implemented depends on the industry adopting common standards for sharing data. Both industry and governments have recognised this and are proactively attempting to establish standards for using medical data securely, and in a manner that protects patients’ privacy. For example, earlier this year, the United Kingdom’s Department of Health released a statement highlighting how this was integral to the growth of digital health.

Whilst this is positive step towards realising digital health, the sector is having to respond to the complexities of implementation. The sector’s organisations and the standards they have developed, can be combined but require a high level of understanding of their application.

And herein lies one of the key challenges in attempting to connect digital health solutions, and one of the findings of the GSMA’s recent report ‘Digital Healthcare Interoperability’. The report also identifies further challenges around interoperability that are inhibiting implementation. For example, Hospital 1 uses the HL7 standard v2.x, and Hospital 2 uses v3.0 of the HL7 standard, where backward compatibility is absent. Therefore, to combine these systems a bespoke solution would need to be developed, which will most likely be paid for by the healthcare provider.

The study stresses that interoperability is an essential requirement in ensuring that data exchanged across devices and systems is understood, interpreted and acted upon in the correct manner. The GSMA report suggests various solutions which could help steer the industry towards interoperability. Governments can help drive adoption by encouraging procurers to specify open standards in their medical device and healthcare ICT system acquisitions, while the mobile industry can help by advising on the application of standards and by working with their healthcare industry partners to deliver services based on the principles of interoperability.

Furthermore, organisations such as the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA), with their Continua Design Guidelines, are grouping standards together into profiles and helping to combine them into a single certifiable solution.

Although the journey towards interoperability -where all devices and systems can seamlessly connect- may be in its early stages, the identification of barriers and the means to overcome them is proof that the industry is on the right track. Moreover, as other sectors begin to feel the economic advantages of interoperable services, it will only be a matter of time before healthcare follows suit.

 

Those looking to engage more with digital health and the issue of interoperability can do so at the World of Health and IT (WoHIT) Conference & Exhibition, running from 21-22 November in Barcelona, Spain.

You can download the report, ‘Digital Healthcare Interoperability’, here. To discover more about how Mobile Network Operators can add value to digital health solutions, please visit gsma.com/digitalhealth

Back

Huawei: NB-IoT Ecosystem Partner list This document provides a list of Huawei’s NB-IoT partners, detailing the solutions offered by each organisation. The brochure also contains a list of regions and sectors ...

Read more | See all Resources

Webinar Highlights: Deploying Mobile IoT – Ask the Experts Mobile IoT (licensed spectrum low power wide area) networks are a high-growth area of the IoT and will play an important role in connecting billions of new devices. Low power wid...

Read more | See all Resources

The IoT Opportunity: Mobilising the Internet of Things Representing the mobile industry, the GSMA’s Internet of Things programme is working to accelerate the deployment of new connected solutions. In this short video, discover mor...

Read more | See all Resources

LPWA: Enabling Extreme Wildlife Tracking To protect threatened species, conservationists need to fully understand their behaviour and which habitats are key to their survival. To that end, Vodafone is working with the ...

Read more | See all Resources

The importance of Embedded SIM certification to scale the Internet of Things As a provider of connected devices why should you care about test and certification of Embedded SIM? Because it enables your devices to reach market faster since they do not need...

Read more | See all Resources

Mobile Privacy and Big Data Analytics Big data analytics can have a significant impact on societal aims such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and has the potential to deliver more effective health outcomes, be...

Read more | See all Resources

AT&T & China Telecom announce nationwide deployments of Mobile IoT AT&T and China Telecom are the latest mobile network operators to demonstrate the growing trend towards licensed low power wide area (LPWA) networks, both having been reporte...

Read more | See all Industry News

Interview: Putting NB-IoT to the Test Cao Ming explains how Huawei’s Shanghai lab is enabling developers to test a wide variety of innovative Internet of Things solutions   Cao Ming, President of FDD Product L...

Read more | See all Industry News

LPWA: Tracking Pallets Across Borders (Use Case) Pallet specialist RM2 and mobile operator AT&T are using the Mobile IoT to streamline international logistics   The global logistics industry has about 15 billion pallet...

Read more | See all Industry News

How to Support the Development of Smart Cities in Asia-Pacific Asia is experiencing exceptionally high rates of urbanisation and population growth. As pointed out by the World Bank Group, the number of people in South Asia’s cities ros...

Read more | See all Industry News

Interview: Oi Brasil Crowdsources Internet of Things Innovation Alberto Boaventura explains how Oi’s new IoT Lab is working with developers, universities and businesses to develop smart solutions and services   Alberto Boaventura, Tech...

Read more | See all Industry News

The IoT Masterclass: Securing the Connected Future By 2025, the world will be composed of 27 billion connected devices.[1] From waste management to water meters, a whole host of new services and devices will share data. This open...

Read more | See all Industry News

ETSI Workshop: “Making Smart Cities Sustainable” June 07, 2017 In cooperation with the European Commission and Eurocities, ETSI is pleased to announce the ETSI workshop “Making Smart Cities Sustainable” from large scale pilots ...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

4th GSMA Global Mobile IoT Summit June 27, 2017 Moving to Global Deployment After seeing more than 40 successful Mobile IoT pilots globally in the last year by a range of mobile operators, the industry is now moving ...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

Mobile World Congress Shanghai June 28, 2017 The Internet of Things will be central to Mobile World Congress Shanghai  – Asia’s biggest mobile event. Bringing together the global mobile industry’s ...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

IoT Summit at MWC Shanghai 2017 June 29, 2017 With 27 bn connected devices forecast by 2025, including 6bn in China, mobile technology is playing an increasingly crucial role in the Internet of Things (IoT) –...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

GSMA Connected Vehicle Summit June 30, 2017 Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC), W3, Auditorium B   The increasing consumer demand for car connectivity and intelligence has been a key driver of th...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

Contact GSMA Legal Email Preference Centre Copyright © 2017 GSMA. GSM and the GSM Logo are registered and owned by the GSMA.