RIO DE JANEIRO—Panelists who debated m-health in Brazil agreed that the lack of connectivity is the greatest challenge to developing the market. Security, culture and legislation were also pointed out as challenges by executives from information technology and medical equipment vendors, hospitals, carriers and government agencies during the panel held at last week’s Futurecom event (check out all stories).
“Connectivity and security are key,” said Heitor Gottberg, Cisco’s manager for the healthcare segment. “It is crucial to address both.”
Even though mobile health has many problems, its benefits might drive a lot of effort to make it work. “M-health can address the challenge of providing healthcare to a large number of people because physicians may not be able to reach everyone,” said Alexandre Quinze, CIO at Phillips. He predicted that the use of mobile applications will be a central method for improving the reach of healthcare around the world.
Some examples are already evident. Carlos Kokron, executive director of Qualcomm Ventures, described an initiative that uses mobile applications to monitor chronic patients. And Mauricio Romão, product director at Telefónica’s Vivo, said the carrier has an initiative based on cloud computing to offer patients first aid.
Of course, the challenges are great and include physicians’ availability and willingness to use mobile equipment to attend to patients. “They have to understand the benefits and agree to use the devices. That’s why IT and medical teams should work together,” said Kaio Bin, COO and CIO at the Cancer Institute. As a physician, he pointed out that no technology can replace face-to-face meetings between doctors and patients.
Reinaldo Opice, Enterasys’ president for Latin America, noted that inside hospitals and healthcare institutions, the problems are smaller since administrators have noticed the importance of building a wireless network to meet mobile device demand. “There are two sides of this demand: the hospitals’ need to ensure physicians and machine-to-machine connectivity, and the demand from patients and visitors who want to have Internet access while at the hospital,” he said.