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Ask The Futurist: Will the Internet of Everything Make Universal Digital Medical Records a Reality?

Waiting rooms. Lengthy paper work. Medical bills. When you are ill, these are the last things you want to worry about. Checking in to your appointment shouldn’t take longer than your visit with the doctor, and the old paper charts just aren’t cutting it anymore. The industry has taken huge steps in moving to electronic health records (EHR), but what’s next? With the Internet of Everything connecting people, processes, data and things, how can electronic health records and smart devices play a role in saving lives?

A couple of weeks ago, I kicked off a new blog series called “Ask the Futurist” where I answer questions about the future directly from you. Today’s question comes from Isaac Naor, SVP & Chief Technology Officer at Ping Mobile:

Question: “Will more smart devices in healthcare drive medical institutions to innovate by creating a single universal digital format for medical records?”

Answer: That’s a great question, and it brings up an interesting point. We have already seen smart devices successfully permeate other industries, and the medical industry will be no exception—smart devices will drive innovation in medical institutions. In fact, as recently as last week, I was at my physician’s office looking at an MRI scan. He used his iPad to navigate through the images. This permeation has begun in earnest.

Ray Kurztwiel, noted futurist, inventor and author made an astute observation about healthcare recently. He noted that “health and medicine – at least its advanced research and development aspect – is now an information technology, it is subject to my law of accelerating returns, which states that it is subject to exponential growth in its price-performance and capability.”

Today we are seeing the first steps in how smart devices are enhancing personal health. For example, user-enabled health monitoring devices like Nike’s FitBit and Jawbone UP as well as various consumer medical smartphone apps track caloric input and output and more. Hospitals and researchers are also investing in point-of-care technologies that will improve patient care and accessibility. Advances in digital x-ray machines that automatically send “film” right to the doctor’s smart device and smart-phone based ultrasound imaging systems are starting to be adopted by medical institutions globally.

As you mentioned in your question, the key to innovation in this area will be developing a universal digital format for electronic health records.

As the Internet of Everything evolves and the world’s population ages, doctors will need a standardized way to help sort through patient data to make it easier to quickly access important medical information. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the number of hospitals with an electronic health records system increased to 44 percent in 2012, up from 27 percent in 2011. This increase is not only due to advancements in technology but also encouragement from the U.S. government, which is  pushing for widespread use of electronic health records to help improve the quality of medical care, while reducing its cost.  

Digitizing health records is the first step to having health records readily available on your smart device. Benefits of adopting smart devices for electronic medical records go beyond just increasing convenience for patients – pervasive electronic records can actually save lives. The CEO of Practice Fusion, an online medical record platform service for doctors, reports that 200,000 people die every year because their medical records weren’t readily available to the attending doctor or physician.

As I mentioned earlier, there is work to be done to improve accessibility of medical records. The industry will need to band together to standardize formats and ensure security. Currently there is no standardized way to connect your daily blood sugar readings to your official health record, but one day, this will be possible. It’s clear that as patient privacy and care remains the top priority, innovation will continue.

 Do you have a question for @DavetheFuturist? Join the conversation #IoE #AsktheFuturist.

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2 Comments.


  1. August 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you for your reply, Dave!

       0 likes

  2. August 27, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Thanks for a straight forward answer!

       0 likes