Last week, The Wireless Foundation hosted the “Mobile Health & Wellness Expo” at the FCC and FDA to showcase the latest and greatest life-changing (and in some cases life-saving) health innovations from wireless industry and tech entrepreneurs. Opening the event, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said, “Innovative technologies and wireless broadband are completely changing when, how, and where medical care takes place allowing more care to and from the most remote of places and to and from the most advanced clinical epicenters.” In prepared remarks, FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff added, “These new mobile technologies promote healthy living by allowing more people to manage their own health and wellness. And they provide people access to useful information when and where they need it.”
As the commissioners pointed out, the innovations displayed at the expo reflect a promising future in which everything from managing chronic conditions and real-time diagnoses, to maintaining healthy lifestyles, are commonplace. It is important to point out that mobile health (or mHealth) encompasses not only high-tech devices or services and the leading medical professionals who use them, but also the wireless infrastructure and devices such as smartphones or tablets that consumers like you and I rely on daily, from anywhere at any time.
mHealth is already a mainstay of our daily lives. According to Pew Research Center, two-thirds of smartphone owners are already using their phones for mHealth information. IMS Health Institute also points out that there is already a wide range of over 165,000 mHealth apps in the marketplace – and over 90 percent of the mHealth apps are free. The anticipated growth of the space is staggering as well, with projections of the telemedicine and mHealth markets potentially valued at over $45 billion by 2021.
These wireless innovations will all require faster and more robust networks to carry high volumes of data very quickly. CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker highlighted this point in a recent op-ed in WirelessWeek where she wrote:
Wireless connectivity already touches every aspect of daily life, but we are just scratching the surface. Sensors in smart cities will determine optimum traffic routing, easing congestion and helping protect the environment. Intelligent lighting will illuminate evacuation routes in buildings. Connected wheelchairs will increase users’ independence. This is the promise of the next generation of mobile networks, known as 5G.
Achieving better health outcomes will require a combination of network innovation toward 5G services, bringing more licensed spectrum online to handle network volume, and guaranteeing a regulatory environment that encourages the continued deployment of the wireless broadband upon which mHealth is depends.
The true game-changer in mHealth is the device you already own that can connect you to the world’s best services and specialists. It is crucial that lawmakers and regulators at the federal, state and local levels do their part to encourage the growth of this vital space and avoid placing barriers on the wireless devices and services consumers depend on.
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