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ICT-based Convergence Technologies Changing Paradigm of Health Care
Digital Healthcare
ICT-based Convergence Technologies Changing Paradigm of Health Care
  • By Michael Herh
  • March 31, 2016, 09:15
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The medical world, which is very conservative about introducing new technologies, is making attempts to adopt smart solutions to improve the efficiency of the existing treatment systems and boost patients’ satisfaction. More and more ordinary people, who are equipped with internet and smartphones, are moving to manage their health with smart devices and prevent diseases in advance.

Such an environmental change is providing companies and prep business founders with opportunities to develop and carry out ICT-based new health care businesses. At the same time, the change is offering investment opportunities to many investors. Such ICT-based health care is called in various terms.

Digital health refers to something where digital technologies, such as computing processors, wired and wireless telecommunications and sensors, are integrated with health and medical, comprising sensors, devices, systems and services.

Accordingly, the concept of digital health covers the entire gamut of current ICT-based health care, including the “mobile health” which utilizes mobile wireless telecommunication technology, the “u-health” based on ubiquitous computing technology, the “tele-health” which includes “tele-monitoring,” “tele-consultation” and “tele-medicine.” Moreover, the digital hospital means a hospital based on ICT-based health care technology where its overall processes and systems, including treatment, treatment support and hospital management, are powered by an ICT system. 

New businesses related to ICT-based health care can be observed in three sectors. The first sector is linked with digital hospitals which make an improvement to processes and systems in current hospitals. Disease management, the second sector, connects hospitals and patients or help patients manage their health on their own. The third and final is a sector where the people at large including patients manage their health and prevent diseases on their own.

Digital Hospital

New businesses are increasing in digital hospital field to meet the needs for higher treatment efficiency, Point of Care Testing (POCT) equipment and patient education. Artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions also are coming out to help doctors make a swift and accurate judgment. Some start-ups are stealing the show by developing medical image decipher support solutions which combine the deep learning with visual medical big data. IBM, the frontrunner in this field is providing the Watson service to medical institutions around the world by making use its supercomputer Watson and taking over big data firms such as Explorys, Phytel and Merge Healthcare.

Some start-ups began their business by developing convenient and fast POCT devices for ultrasonic measurement, blood sugar measurement, pregnancy diagnosis, molecular diagnosis among others. POCT devices satisfy the needs of medical staffs and patients since they empower doctors to check patients’ conditions on the spot and quickly take proper measures. The results of doctors’ checks with mobile POCT devices are transferred to the Medical Information System or the cloud system of the digital hospital in real time. Doctors and patients are able to check the results of examinations by way of a smartphone application outside the hospital.     

Online and mobile solutions are also creating new business models. The solutions help patients digest easily the medical and health information. Patient education solutions check a patient’s health information in connection with digital hospitals and provide the individual medical information and health management contents via PCs and smartphones. These solutions enable outpatients to read information about their illnesses, operations and negative side effects during their waiting hours. Patients will be able to get continuous services for health care and education about diet, exercise, medication in link with medical staffs even outside their hospitals.

Disease Management Service

The development of a wide variety of mobile medical equipment and the popularization of the smartphone are triggering the establishment of start-ups that provide disease management service and personal health records (PHRs). Disease management service began mainly from the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and is expanding into specialized services such as special disease management, rehabilitation care, and emergency care. 

Global players such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft store personal health information from mobile medical devices, smartphone apps and wearable devices among others in an integrated way by providing free PHR platforms. Then they share it with medical staffs and third-party health management service applications.

The disease management sector must earn trust from both medical staffs and patients. The government is moving ahead with a policy to cut down on excessive medical expenses that complications incur by taking steady care of patients. Big hospitals and clinics try to remotely monitor patients outside them for steady cares. Insurance companies have needs to minimize claim settlements through the management of insured people’s diseases. Consequently, the equipment and services, which earn trust from the industry, will be able to further develop in cooperation with the government, medical institutions and insurers. 

Wellness Service

It is in the wellness sector that the largest number of start-ups have been founded recently. Wellness means efforts to pursue happiness by way of better quality of life including physical, mental and social health. But here, wellness is simply defined as products and services not for medical purposes in terms of health care.  

The establishment of new businesses related to wellness involves wearable devices that monitors users’ everyday lives, physical activities, sleep and posture or service applications related to fitness and outdoor. Last year, not only medical devices but personal health management devices were classified into wellness items thanks to the Korea FDA’s easing of medical equipment regulations. It is expected that looking ahead, more health products and services will come out to check biological phenomena such as heart rate, body fat and oxygen saturation, display the results of measurement of patients with chronic diseases such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes, or guide people about weight control and exercise.

New O20 businesses are booming in the health care sector, which broker products and services between consumers and businesses by bridging online and offline. Some of the examples are a service that brokers patients and hospitals for treatment reservations via prior health consultations, a service that introduces appropriate workout methods and fitness specialists to customers, and a service which connects foreign medical tourists and local hospitals.

The wellness sector is not subject to laws such as the Medical Treatment Act and the Medical Equipment Act. Consequently, its barriers are not high and items in this sector can be quickly commercialized. To the contrary, its low barriers give rise to fierce competitions and hot debates over quality issues. Therefore, it is strategically necessary to secure good qualities by way of getting the approval of medical equipment. Steady engagement is another issue to solve. Those in this sector need to make new attempts, for example, gamification which includes SNS connections, competition, quest completion and cash-like points.