By Atam Dhawan
While the developed countries may find POC technologies as effective means for reducing healthcare costs and improving efficiency, POC technologies are critical in responding to essential healthcare needs in countries with large populations or rural areas.
However, the implementation of POC healthcare technologies towards a tangible clinical impact poses formidable challenges of educating users on technology usage, data communication, compliance and understanding towards a behavioral change to realize and accept a new role and responsibility in keeping themselves, family members or others healthy.
The twentieth century has witnessed a technology revolution in medicine and health through instrumentation, computer and information and communication technologies. This revolution is continued in 21st century with new smart cross- and trans-disciplinary technologies and innovations directly impacting medical practice and healthcare delivery re-defining the relationship between patient and healthcare providers. Technology innovations and globalization have brought the world together as one global community where developing and developed economies have become more dependent and well-connected than they ever have been. As the overall life expectancy across the globe is increasing, the global community is now facing new challenges of quality of life and healthcare at an affordable cost. While the exponentially rising cost of healthcare with increasing healthcare expenditure as a fraction of Gross Domestic Product is a critical priority challenge in developed nations, providing minimal quality healthcare to all, specifically in large and sparsely distributed communities in rural areas, is the most vital challenge to developing nations.
The emerging and future trends with continuous evolution of innovation in smart and portable bio-sensor, computing, information and communication technologies are the enablers of Point-of-Care healthcare technologies towards affordable global healthcare. A strategic study at the National Institutes of Health has noted :”With the development of miniaturized devices and wireless communication, the way in which doctors care for patients will change dramatically and the role patients take in their own health care will increase. Health care will become more personalized through tailoring of interventions to individual patients.”
Though the challenges of providing high-quality healthcare in developing countries are different than those in developed countries, there is a common goal to provide access to health monitoring and assessment technologies to people with limited or no healthcare facilities. While the developed countries may find POC technologies as effective means for reducing healthcare costs and improving efficiency, POC technologies are critical in responding to essential healthcare needs in countries with large populations or rural areas. The developing countries in the eastern part of the globe accounting for more than 2/3rd of the population of the world face the basic challenge of providing minimal healthcare to all people living in adverse geographical or economic constraints, and also monitoring critical diseases and infections such as HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, etc. The challenge becomes even more critical in the situation of potential outbreak of an epidemic.
It is now more critical than ever to create and support collaborative synergies to explore POC health monitoring, assessment and therapeutic technologies to significantly impact global healthcare for the “well-being” of a healthy society with an increasing proportion of elderly people.
However, the implementation of POC healthcare technologies towards a tangible clinical impact poses formidable challenges of educating users on technology usage, data communication, compliance and understanding towards a behavioral change to realize and accept a new role and responsibility in keeping themselves, family members or others healthy. POC healthcare technologies including sensor and biomarkers based POC diagnostic technologies; therapeutic and rehabilitation devices; and ICT with mHealth, eHealth, and health monitoring with POC decision support systems would directly impact patients, less-educated staff, community center workers and nurses on technology usage and local decision making; as well as physicians in the broad spectrum of data integration, mining and interpretation.
Thus, it appears that POCHT is a new paradigm-shift in global healthcare. However, POC healthcare technologies development, deployment and compliance issues related to affordable global healthcare have to be critically examined towards developing sound business models for their effective implementation such that they can be sustained with an economic impact to support the implementation infrastructure.
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