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Despite the reservations of many primary care physicians, mobile health technologies are continuing a gradual rise to prominence. As more and more people grow comfortable using mHealth apps and devices – 95 million Americans currently do, with a projected 500 million worldwide by 2015 – everyone involved in the healthcare process will need to be ready to tackle the unique challenges sure to arise.
A bipartisan group of congress members recently introduced a bill to adjust FDA oversight of mobile health technology and aims to improve the freedom of software developers as well. The Sensible Oversight for Technology which Advances Regulatory Efficiency (SOFTWARE) Act would, if passed, provide some clarity on the FDA’s regulatory authority towards medical devices and specifically mobile medical apps and other healthcare-focused software. According to a press release for Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), current FDA guidelines could allow the agency to potentially overreach and stifle innovation. As such, “the SOFTWARE Act tailors their authority to the realities of the 21st century by focusing their authority onto the products that pose a potential risk to human health.” Developers everywhere would enjoy some much needed transparency on which software projects can be quickly delivered to consumers and those which will require lengthier, in-depth FDA approval.
Supercomputers are finally seeing some usage in clinical settings due to mHealth advances as well. Doctors at the Univeristy of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are now using iPad apps that sync with Watson, IBM’s question answering artificial intelligence system. The app, called Oncology Expert Advisor, links individual patient information with Watson’s vast medical history and clinical trial database to generate unique treatment profiles. Though Watson has yet to see widespread use, and is not currently accessible by physicians from non-partnered institutions, the possibility for real-time, worldwide diagnostic and treatment advice is tantalizing.
Verizon is also getting into the mobile health technology field. They recently introduced their Converged Health Management system to allow patients to remotely collect biometric data and submit it to Verizon’s HIPAA-compliant cloud servers, where it can be downloaded and integrated into electronic health records (EHRs) by healthcare providers. While that may not seem particularly revolutionary, the large coverage area and number of subscribers to Verizon’s mobile network could be a tipping point that leads to widespread use of home health monitoring for the aging baby boomer generation and their sure-to-be-overworked physicians. By simplifying the process and providing a single point of access, Verizon could gain an early lead on competitors looking for the next big market opportunity.
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