Firms Chase Opportunities In Online Medicine
General Electric Co. chief executive Jeffrey Immelt urged Japan, at a conference in Tokyo Monday, to use health information technology to improve home-based health care as a hedge against the strains of an aging population, The Wall Street Journal reports. Japan's over-65 population is growing, and could top 30 percent by 2030. "Japan and its aging society presents promising opportunities for GE's health-care arm." The company, widely known for diagnostic equipment like CT scanners "is targeting growth in new areas like digital medical systems.has been pushing for growth in health information technology (Wakabayashi, 5/1).
The New York Times: Other companies are also hoping to capitalize on growth in this sector. NuPhysicia, a Texas firm, is one pioneer of face-to-face telemedicine that links doctors and patients via two-way video. "Spurred by health care trends and technological advances, telemedicine is growing into a mainstream industry. A fifth of Americans live in places where primary care physicians are scarce, according to government statistics. That need is converging with advances that include lower costs for video-conferencing equipment, more high-speed communications links by satellite, and greater ability to work securely and dependably over the Internet" (Freudenheim, 5/28).
Austin American-Statesman: Also, Dell is betting "on technology to help revamp medicine." The firm "has become the biggest player in health care information technology as part of a broader corporate restructuring." Still, "Dell has plenty of competition. Hundreds of computer hardware, software and services companies are running hard to get into a race that accelerated in 2009 with the passage of the federal economic stimulus bill, which set aside $19 billion in incentives for health care information technology" (Ladendorf, 5/29).
American Medical News: But the move towards digital medicine is still a work in progress. "More than 50% of parents say they would like access to e-mail or Internet communication with their children's physician. But fewer than one in six report that they have it," according to a recent poll of 1,612 parents. "Fewer than 15% said they use e-mail or the Internet for clinical actions with the physicians, such as prescription refills, lab results, or advice on minor illnesses or injury." The poll was funded by the University of Michigan Dept. of Pediatrics and Communicable Disease (Dolan, 5/31).
The New York Times, in a separate article, reports on the possible "side effects" of the digitization of medicine. "PatientsLikeMe provides forums where more than 65,000 members with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and more than a dozen other disorders are encouraged to share details about their conditions and the success or pitfalls of specific drug treatments," possibly harnessing crowd-sourcing to help patients deal with diseases and identify harmful side effects faster. But, "PatientsLikeMe has an innovative for-profit business model, too. It sells health data, gathered from member profiles but with certain identifying information removed, to drug makers and others for scientific and marketing research" (Singer, 5/28).