The Bright and Dark Sides of U-Healthcare
The Bright and Dark Sides of U-Healthcare
  • Cha Joo-hak
  • 승인 2009.10.01 10:20
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CEO Cha Joo-hak of Kyeongwon U-Globe

It is possible to achieve better health and well-being for the general population through the application of ubiquitous technologies. That is, to improve and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the traditional medical system by making products and services for u-healthcare more available, accessible, affordable, and accountable. In other words, the driving forces of u-healthcare are trends that should lead to achieving more comprehensive, reasonably inexpensive, and easy-to-access u-healthcare products and services for everyone.

The evolution of u-healthcare concepts, infrastructure, technologies, applications, interfaces, and strategies all contribute to the paradigm shift from wellness by tethered or traditional healthcare to one by ubiquitous healthcare. U-healthcare concepts and strategies are vital and necessary for healthcare reform and new ways of thinking about healthcare delivery. U-healthcare technologies and applications provide alternative means of delivering healthcare products and services. And, u-healthcare infrastructure and interfaces offer convenient mechanisms for transmitting medical and clinical knowledge to residents, non-experts, and healthcare workers. Moreover, u-healthcare methods and strategies encourage innovations in non-tethered medical interventions, a focus on preventive measures, and greater emphasis on self-care and remote or back land healthcare.

In addition, u-healthcare can aid in realizing rapid changes in a nation’s healthcare infrastructures, financing, administration, management, and healthcare delivery systems and procedures.  These include reduced administration costs and eliminating inappropriate and unnecessary emergency services. These goals and benefits, to the degree that they are realized, will further propel the growth and development of u-healthcare in years to come.

Unfortunately, u-healthcare is far less developed than traditional healthcare, which has been established over the last several centuries. Even e-business or e-commerce, despite the similar transactional processes involved, is more developed.

Much skepticism has surged forth about the proliferation and diffusion of u-healthcare.  This is primarily caused by fear of change, resistance from healthcare professionals, user concerns over privacy and security issues, competing interests among innovations for venture capitalists and funding sources, and continuing environmental and political uncertainties.

Venture capitalists and investors are also wary of putting money into a u-healthcare system that is financially at risk, that lacks coherence and cost control, and that has byzantine requirements for computing costs and returns on investments.

Even with state-of-the-art information systems in many healthcare provider institutions, it is difficult, if not impossible, to give the precise cost of any specific medical procedure. The cost of a replacement surgery depends on the condition of the patient, the seniority and prestige of the surgeon, the cost of the specific materials used, the length of the patient’s stay, the facility in which the procedure is to be undertaken, and many other factors.

The complexity or intricacy of implementing common shareware without compatible standards creates undue or unnecessary delays in collaborative projects. And the level or standard of u-healthcare in an environment will probably be the minimum standard expected within that environment.

The lack of standards or at least a coalescing consensus on standards, which presents the risk of strengthened user resistance, especially from health professionals, can be detrimental to building u-healthcare infrastructures for rapid transmission of u-healthcare information, products, and services.

U-healthcare systems can be chaotic when there are too many different platforms, software standards, security procedures, and programming languages.  This can happen when each company attempts to stake out a niche in the billion-dollar u-healthcare technology marketplace.

The installation of proper u-healthcare infrastructure assist in managing multi-way communications among ubiquitous stakeholders.  It can also motivate u-healthcare workers to share information and participate in discussions as to best medical practices and evidence-based medicine.

Another dark side is u-healthcare work design. In many instances, consumers or users, providers, and insurers are not prepared for the changes in their respective information management roles. The transition to e-consumer empowerment means that e-provider corporations will become information disseminators rather than information gatekeepers. Recognizing this change in business functioning is critical to the success of u-healthcare operations. U-healthcare workers must be trained differently and companies must begin to learn how to manage u-healthcare work.

Information system analysts and Web developers may also feel threatened when u-healthcare consumers and u-healthcare providers dictate specific information management functions and requirements instead of relying on the experts. Poor and inadequate ubiquitous technologies and interfaces will not be tolerated and will fall by the wayside.

Data security and confidentiality of patient information are two of the most important concerns in the application of u-healthcare technologies. Security access is a major concern as u-healthcare technologies become available to a huge number of users across literally boundless geography. Appropriate firewall protection, data encryption, and password access can all be employed to manage security issues; however, computing viruses are getting more sophisticated as security technology increases. In order to use u-healthcare technologies effectively, it is important to define to whom access will be granted and what level of patient data may be shared.

All of these changes will lead to new work processes for everyone in the u-healthcare system. Trial and error is inevitable, but continual quality improvement and well-designed evaluations are equally important. Of course, a government or a multinational corporation like IBM or Microsoft will be expected to provide the strong consensus-based leadership needed to champion and oversee the process of achieving standardization among major ubiquitous stakeholders.

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