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MRI, coming to a Wal-Mart near you

Posted: 10 Aug 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Qualcomm? consumer electronics? medical? consumer health electronics? Wi-Fi?

Digitisation has crossed over to new height. In particular, the innovation in consumer electronics has surged beyond more than what we had ever imagined. Now, that same or even faster pace of change is knocking loudly against the solid door of the medical space.

I recently emailed my doctor asking him to refill a prescription at my online pharmacy. His office called me back to ask for the online pharmacy's FAX number. 21st Century FAX?

Recently, I attended the Leadership Forum of the American Hospital Association in San Francisco, a gathering of the leaders of the nation's hospitals and medical centres. Even these senior members of the AHA were shocked to hear that within five years Wal-Mart will have an MRI in every store, and for $400 (a fraction of the usual and customary charge) you can: get an MRI without a doctor's orders; have it read by a smart machine more accurate than any radiologist; and keep the report for your own records.

As dramatic as the shift in consumer entertainment electronics (CEE) has been in the past decade, it will pale in comparison with the changes coming in the consumer health electronics (CHE) revolution.

Qualcomm's Tricorder Xprize

The Holy Grail of CHE? Qualcomm's Tricorder Xprize contest, judging begins in November. (Source: Qualcomm)

Advances in CEE were driven our wants, not our needs; we were never suffering from a critical shortage of entertainment.

But doing something about health care now is beyond a felt need; it's an imperative. Health care in the US accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the GDP. And, while it seems counter-intuitive, this audience of senior hospital administrators feels that pain. A survey by Moody's finds that 25 per cent of hospitals in the US lost money in 2013, up 14 per cent in 2011.

How can hospitals lose money when, according to the NY Times, they charge $500 for a single stitch?

And how does any of this fit in an electronics industry publication?

First, every employee in every industry sees that rising cost every month, reflected in take-home pay. Higher premiums, higher deductibles and higher co-pays are crushing, and they will only increase on the course we're on. Talk about the squeeze on the middle class.

One industry spokesman after another at the event said: We can't bend this costly trajectory. We have to break it.

And so health care is beginning to undergo the tectonic shift already felt by booksellers, music distributors and film producers: from bricks to clicks. And for those making either hardware or software on the 'click' side, that represents major opportunities.

The patient (now renamed customer or consumer) will no longer be excluded from the information flow. While 'informed consent' has been officially on the books in the US only since 1957, the idea of patients having access to their own medical records is still limited and controversial. But as those very personal records are released from the physician's file cabinets, a whole panorama of wireless devices and yet-to-be imagined apps will come to be.

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