In a recent column in the New York Times Ray Bilton wrote about his experience at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and the changed emphasis of the products on display away from technical specifications to design elements. He states: “I don’t care about the technology inside the technology anymore. It just works — for the most part — and therefore consumers no longer need to think about it.”
I also attended CES and was struck with the growing number of over-the-counter consumer health devices but was struck with how many of them were sleek and catchy but had virtually no real usefullness for personal or clinical healthcare. Wearing a band around your wrist that flashes your pulse count is not what I would think is a health aid. But at least it was really good looking and didn't need a long user guide to understand it.
We are just starting to see the same evolution for telemedicine. Large telehealth programs and private, remote medical service providers are just starting to move away from needing a full engineering staff to operate their interactive networks. It’s not as easy as dialing a phone yet - but we are getting close.
The growing number of health providers using such consumer-friendly technologies as Skype and FaceTime for consultations have been unfortunately restrained by legal fears of violating privacy laws. I’m not giving any application the all clear but - just for the record - HIPAA does not certify products. There is no such thing as a device being “not HIPAA compliant.” Technical, consultant and lawyer-fed hyperbole about such issues are becoming one of the biggest impediments to expanding healthcare.
I long for the day when we talk only about sleek designs and friendly provider and patient interfaces for real telemedicine devices and not just pixels, privacy and transmission speeds.