Wireless eHealth Platforms.

The ehealth market is evolving; once characterised by small scale, single application pilots and projects it is increasingly dominated by larger multi-function systems. The type of organisation that is building and hosting ehealth services is also changing, with incumbent healthcare providers ceding market share to ‘nextgen’ healthcare providers. In part this evolution is being driven by the growing use of both local and wide area wireless networking. Both IT equipment vendors and mobile network operators regard healthcare as a rapidly expanding market for wireless technology and services.

The incumbent healthcare providers, who developed and hosted many of the early ehealth services, were not market driven or constrained by the need to produce a return on investment. This is not true of services being developed by nextgen healthcare providers, who are not only market driven but often need to achieve scale in a very short timeframe.

The wireless technology that has helped drive the market for consumer facing ehealth services is, in many cases, complex and difficult to deploy. Whereas there were relatively few standards and protocols associated with fixed line communication, this is not the case with wireless networks.

In an effort to achieve scale in the shortest period, and overcome the complexity of deploying wireless technology, nextgen healthcare providers are following in the footsteps of the banks and retailers who used ready built communications platforms when they moved parts of their operations onto the Internet. Just as the platforms employed by the retail and financial services companies were especially designed to support online trading and financial transactions, so some of the emerging ehealth platforms are purpose built to transport vital signs data over wide area networks. In addition to communicating vital signs data an ehealth platform must also support a range of medical devices and tools that store, retrieve and carry out elementary analysis of patient data.

The number of potential nextgen healthcare providers is growing, and companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are attempting to position their Internet search tools as healthcare information portals. The market is also being driven by the mobile communications and consumer electronics industry who were initially drawn into the ehealth market when researchers and ehealth service developers began to use standard off-the-shelf consumer electronics devices within telemedicine and remote care projects. These two groups of players are being brought closer together by the emergence of Health 2.0 – the medical equivalent of Web 2.0 – which uses advanced Internet applications to enhance communications between the healthcare provider and the patient.

This report draws on research published in Wireless Healthcare’s Series 2 reports, covering remote diagnostics, Health 2.0, and the convergence between the consumer electronics and the medical device industry. It also examines the emerging market for ehealth platforms and how the developers of these platforms will shape the healthcare IT industry. 

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