Transition to a mobile, connected health system bumpy

You don't often see the words "diabetes" and "elegant" in the same sentence--unless, of course, you're talking about smartphones.

"If you have diabetes, asthma or heart disease, there's almost certainly an elegant smartphone interface at your disposal," reads a MarketWatch story reported from London. "If you're overweight or if it's the scourge of meningitis you fear--or even if you simply don't know where to look for judicious diagnostic advice and treatment--the wireless medical world is at hand."

No, FierceMobileHealthcare readers don't need to be told this part, but the article looks at the broader issue of the bumpy transition to a wireless, mobile connected healthcare system. There are numerous device compatibility with networks, connectivity, security and strategic considerations, not to mention the tricky problem of fitting new technologies into existing workflows or getting creatures of habit (i.e., physicians) to embrace new workflows.

And don't forget the consumer side of the equation, since mobile and wireless technologies can and are transforming the patient-physician relationship. "Bedside EKG, ultrasound, pulse oximetry, blood-pressure monitor, glucose monitor--doctors will eventually have access to these types of monitoring capabilities when they visit patients at home," says Dr. Joseph White, identified only as a U.S.-based physician with an interest in m-health.

Don Jones, VP of business development at San Diego-based Qualcomm, a well-known supporter of mobile healthcare, believes that some healthcare uses are built into other apps as "Trojan horses." He mentions the Nike+ system that wirelessly transmits fitness data to the iPhone and some iPod models. "What they have done, really, is build a social-networking tool around a health and fitness app," Jones says.

But consumer devices and apps may not be appropriate for diagnostic purposes. Dr. Peter Bentley, who created the fast-growing iStethoscope app for the iPhone, tells MarketWatch of "technical limits if you want to use apps to automate diagnoses." He recommends that consumers view apps as tools for "triage to suggest when you should see a doctor."

Another wild card is the regulatory environment. "What I find is that many physicians and other healthcare professionals simply don't know enough about these apps," White notes. "There is currently no regulatory guidance or certification that tells people that these apps are medically accurate or even useful."

For more thoughts on the mobile health landscape:
- take a look at this MarketWatch story