Wireless Health: What’s in It for Doctors?

After listening to countless companies’ exciting ideas, I have come to the conclusion that the new wireless health sector has the potential to grow into a booming business within the next five years. The question is, how much am I willing to bet? The potential is there, but can we clear the path?

Depending on whom you ask, it is either coming on strong or it is going nowhere. Both sides are firmly convinced they are right. The truth is that something has to change, and I’ll explain why.

In my Pick of the Week section, I want to tell you how Michael Dell and Dell Inc. are getting into the mHealth industry with Meditech.

Our healthcare system is being rewritten with wave after wave of change — innovations and technologies that use new wireless and wireline connections. There are companies, large and small, with exciting ideas about what the future will look like. They are all contacting me to get on my radar, and it is exciting.

On the other hand, there is a roadblock I want to tell you about. I just visited a few doctors and brought up the topic of wireless health, mHealth and eHealth. I like talking with doctors, because they are honest and tell me what they really think.

They all surprised me and quickly said all this new health stuff would not happen. Period.

Show Me the Money

So where is the rub? Is this going to be real or not? Why don’t these two important sides in the process see eye-to-eye on where we are heading?

Well, the answer is simple enough. You and I would not be willing to do loads of extra work without being compensated, and the doctors feel the same way.

They say it sounds like a great idea. It will save the insurance companies money, since they won’t have to pay for a visit. It will save the patients time and money, since they won’t have to come in for a visit. But for the doctor, the picture isn’t so rosy.

It means doctors will have to spend more hours per day, often at the end of the day, communicating with patients without compensation. Plus the patient doesn’t come in for a visit, so they lose that income also. It’s a double-whammy. The doctor gets it from both ends.

If you were asked to spend that much more time at work, with no more income, and in fact losing income, would you? I didn’t think so. Neither would I. So why should they? That is one of the problems we must fix if we want to move forward.

Another hurdle is expertise. There is a big gap here. There are very few people in the world who have expertise on both sides. Either they are an expert in healthcare, or communications technology.

So what is the answer? Do colleges start teaching differently? Do we take wireless people and teach them healthcare, and visa versa? Whatever the solution is, we are just getting started down this new path, and we need solutions. We’d love to follow the yellow brick road, but instead the path is uphill, and full of vines and rocks.

All Aboard

Another question is do we totally overhaul the system or continue to tweak it for years to come? It sounds better to just overhaul the entire system right? However, technology innovations bring changes every year. So this massive overhaul will be outdated in a year or two. Even before the transformation is complete. It makes more sense to keep tweaking.

Let me say I firmly believe all this mind-blowing innovation will occur. This is great news for jobs and investment and industry growth. However, we need to change some basic things to make sure it is fair for everyone. To make sure one party does not win at the expense of another party. We have to make sure we have the right people in charge so everyone benefits.

We understand the wireless industry changes — and often. We have to start thinking the same way about this new healthcare model. All this new technology that is being presented by companies like Qualcomm, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, GE, and many others. They will continue to change the healthcare world we think we know.

We have to look for help from new groups with new thinking, like the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance. What about government agencies? Which will play a role? The Food and Drug Adminstration? The FCC? What about new agencies as this industry sector grows? I think we’ll see new players in this space. Piece by piece, everything will change.

Every day, I get contacted by companies, large and small, with amazing and earthshaking ideas that make me realize the future of healthcare is bright and new and exciting. They want me to tell the world about them.

We have seen lots of innovation — but make no mistake, so far this is a new path, and we have more questions than answers. That is actually the good part. However, we have to remember that while some parties are excited about moving forward, others think this just won’t happen.

Today they are both right, because the disconnect shines a light on some of the areas we need to adjust to make sure everyone is on the same train.

One of our more immediate challenges is to make the playing field even and opportunities fair for all. Once we do that, the bumpy road ahead will be smoothed, and the speeds will increase, and things will start to happen quickly.

And isn’t that what we all want to happen? Imagine what the world will be like when healthcare gets to be as cool and fast-growing and rapidly changing as the iPhone and Android? This is the incredible world that investors, workers and everyone else are waiting for. Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week topic is how Michael Dell and Dell Inc. are getting into the mHealth industry with Meditech. But, you may ask, aren’t they in the computer business? Yes, but they are also thinking outside the box. Looking to new areas for growth. That will also help the healthcare industry.

Wireless health is one of the big opportunities going forward for companies large and small. Computer companies like Dell are well positioned not only to be big winners in this space, but also leaders.

Dell is moving into this area and has unveiled a new mobile program called “Meditech MCC,” which stands for “mobile clinical computing.” This new program brings companies’ healthcare information services (HCIS) from a PC-based system into a cloud-based system.

Dell says it is a virtual desktop that allows users to seamlessly move from desktops to laptops to tablets to smartphones. According to Dell, storing data in the cloud rather than on hard drives is a better way to prevent security problems. Actually, it solves some and raises others, but they can be managed with good execution.

Meditech is being beta-tested in hospitals now. If Dell does this well, it could be an important slice of its business going forward. I think if you look at similar computer companies — like Lenovo, Toshiba, HP and Apple — you may find plenty of movement in this same direction. They are hoping to capture the imagination of the marketplace and find growth outside the traditional PC market.

Jeff Kagan

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at [email protected]. Read the first chapters of his new bookLife After Stroke now available at and Barnes & Noble.

1 Comment

  • Jeff, I think the idea that doctors should work extra hours for no extra income is not the point. Say I have a recurring sore throat and I need to have more antibiotics . I saw the doctor last week. I could go online and speak to a PA or an administrator who could relay the message to the doctor. I would expect a small office e-visit fee to be charged rather than free. But it would be still cheaper than another office visit and re-check charge. There are many ways for the e-commerce doctor’s office to create a revenue stream at lower cost to the patients and insurance companies. If CVS Pharmacy can have a doctor or medical person on staff for some hours, the doctors offices with many partners in it can make it work online as well. Outside the box thinking is needed.

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