Eric Topol: Mobile devices may radically change healthcare--if the industry embraces them

Today's medical practice and overall healthcare industry will undergo a radical transformation in the next five years as mobile devices become more mHealth-friendly, according to Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego.

However, those changes won't come without hurdling formidable challenges, specifically with the mountains of data being collected and analyzed by devices, as well as ensuring data security and patient privacy, Topol (pictured) and Scripps colleagues Steven Steinhubl--who serves on FierceHealthIT's Editorial Advisory Board--and Ali Torkamani write in a viewpoint published at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"It will take a new plasticity of the medical community in facing its greatest and singular challenge since the profession's origin--its transformation by pervasive embracement of digital technology," they write.

The authors' expectations are echoed by a recent prediction by TechKnowledge Strategies analyst Mike Feibus, who said that the transition shift of mHealth tech from the fitness realm to the medical and home patient monitoring environments will take root this year. Their concerns also are expected, given recent research regarding mHealth challenges. One study, for instance, cited the healthcare sector as the most immature industry in terms of personal mobile device security, endpoint compliance discovery and remediation.

Topol and his colleagues cite Moore's law--a 1965 prediction of a doubling of chip transistors every two years--and studies that reveal a doubling every five years of mobile devices connected to the Internet, as evidence of the impending transformation.

"Current devices have achieved the capability of digitizing a human being with the use of wearable sensors to quantify physiologic metrics such as vital signs or relevant aspects of a person's environment, imaging to provide high definition of the anatomy, sequencing of the individual's germline DNA, RNA, microbiome, and the epigenome to elucidate an individual's biology," they say.

The top worry, they say, is that healthcare has not kept up with processing the torrent of data or its security.

"Progress will not likely be deemed acceptable without ensuring that the individual's data are not being sold or breached. In the next half of this decade, as much attention must be paid to deep medical learning to preempt illness as to data security to protect the privacy of individuals," the authors write.

For more information:
- read the viewpoint

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