Mobile health and the globalization of medicine

The term globalization loosely refers to the increasing unification of order.  It has been traditionally applied to the economic sector.  As the world is progressively intertwined from financial and cultural perspectives, it is not surprising that it is occurring in the medical arena.  There have been international professional medical societies for many decades, and the medical device and pharmaceutical industries have consolidated on a global scale.

However, the way medicine is practiced is becoming more standardized.  This is in part due to clinical studies producing international society practice guidelines, as well as international exchanges of trainees and teachers.  Medical tourism is a burgeoning industry in which patients may travel to other countries seeking diverse or more economical medical treatment. The Cleveland Clinic and Duke University have arrangements with international medical centers.  Fifty percent of clinical trials based in the US involve patients recruited in participating foreign countries.

When thinking about globalization of healthcare, it is only fitting to consider how wireless technologies are being utilized in different parts of the world as well as how these products may improve health worldwide.  It is clear that some parts of the world are far ahead of others. Asia, for instance is expecting the mHealth market to reach $7 billion by 2017 (estimated at $500 million presently), according to the Global System for Global Communications Association which will be releasing a study with Pricewaterhouse Coopers in December.  It

is projected that 55% would be in the monitoring sector and 24% would involve diagnostic services. Malaysia has a national health information exchange (HIE) already in place.  This technology is the basis for uniform transmission of wireless technology data into a patient’s electronic health record, made available to providers nationally if necessary.  The HIE establishes many things.  It facilitates patient health record portals through which the data streams and is available to the patients, providers, and potentially insurers.  It establishes a public awareness of the significance of healthcare IT and how wireless technologies tie into their overall healthcare management.  It sets the stage for national education about healthcare IT and how patients may manage their health via mHealth technologies.   Mobile technologies have been a focus of the United Nations, the mHealth Alliance, the Gates Foundation, and others as a way of providing care to underdeveloped countries where mobile phones are being utilized as conduits to distant healthcare providers.

Mobile health technologies are a way to level the playing field with regards to medical access for rural underserved areas in this country as well as sharing care among different countries.  Let’s look forward to the simple genius of this industry.

David Lee Scher is a former cardiologist and a consultant at DLS Healthcare Consulting, LLC.  He blogs at his self-titled site, David Lee Scher, MD.

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  • Chris OhMD

    Great article. I agree that mHealth and gobalization of healthcare will be the trend. I’m looking at this phenomenon mainly from medical missions perspective. Similar tools can be used from mobile devices to deliver care to rural areas of Zambia for e.g.