Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 19, 2012

Disruptive Healthcare May be Sufficiently Absurd to Live

Growth in healthcare is a given. With the baby boomer population beginning to approach its golden years--and thus be in the greatest need for healthcare services--and the growth of the mobile technology market on several fronts, it's posing a very interesting combination of factors that's looking to make even more growth than expected in some areas. That's why some--like Ting Shih's ClickMedix and Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Health--are pursuing what's being called "disruptive healthcare" technology in a bid to fuel some of that growth.

ClickMedix, for example, grew out of a desire to give mobile phone users rapid access to healthcare via said mobile devices. Originally, this desire was considered "absurd" by many, and this brought to mind a quote from Albert Einstein, in which he expressed a direct correlation between an idea's absurdity and its likelihood of survival. Specifically, if it didn't at least appear absurd then there was no hope for it. But ClickMedix went on past the initial absurdity--even Shih's parents thought the idea of mobile phone-based healthcare was absurd in the extreme--on to the point where Shih netted a Cartier Women's Initiative Award for her idea.

The ClickMedix concept, by itself, is a comparatively simple one. With the rapid improvement of mobile devices overall, especially in their cameras and processing power, people are more able than ever to take pictures of "that strange lump" or "that thing on my arm" that are every bit as clear as they would be in real life. Better yet, patients could also more easily create lists of the symptoms they experienced and route said lists to physicians for closer examination, where simple matters could be remotely diagnosed or appointments for more in-depth analysis could be made.

What's more, ClickMedix was already shown to work in remote areas as nurse midwives in Botswana put camera phones to work in an attempt to check for cervical cancer. The nurse midwives were instructed to apply a solution made of common household vinegar and other elements, which turned pre-cancerous lesions white and made them easily photographed. The resulting photographs were then sent on to experts, who could better identify the nature of the lesions and respond as needed.

ClickMedix is also expanding to offer more services like HIPAA-compliance and top-notch security, making it commercially viable even in the age of new healthcare laws. Additionally, they've recently joined up with Grameen Health and Research to provide affordable healthcare options throughout New York by providing a way to more easily--and more affordably--manage chronic illnesses.

The improved use of technology--especially as described in the Botswana example--as a way to improve healthcare is a measure that isn't nearly as absurd as it may sound. Sure, maybe the use of a camera phone as a healthcare tool may seem outlandish, but the devices in general improve with such rapidity that new uses for them are simply a given at most any time. Consider the differences in just five years of iPhone models, from the original clear up to the present day.

Healthcare isn't likely to stop changing any time soon, and as technology evolves right alongside it, the use of technology in healthcare is just as likely to continue crossing borders for some time to come. It may sound absurd to start with, but when examined more closely, it's much less absurd than first thought.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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