Here's to your mobile health

Don't trust anything that's described as intuitive, warns Nick Booth.

Have you noticed that many words have evolved into the complete opposite of their original meaning?

Celebrities always talk about an experience being humbling. If it’s so humbling to meet disadvantaged children, or share a podium with Nelson Mandela, you wonder why they organized the photo opportunity in the first place. If they were humbled, in the true sense of the word, they’d throw a massive tantrum and sack their agent.

By humbling, they mean branding. As in: “It was very branding to have my picture taken with those war heroes.”

The word ‘intuitive’ is used in the same way. It seems to mean ‘work it out for yourself’. Cloud software, for example. is always intuitive. As is any DIY web site building package, or home liposuction or hands-on dentistry kit. Believe me, they’re all far too painful to try at home.

As all the confidence tricks books tell me, most con jobs need a convincer. The convincer is the seemingly unbiased person who makes innocent by-standers buy into any bogus scheme. I’m sure all these people who come forward and say things like “I taught myself how to use the Hadron Collider” are just agents employed by the vendor to act as convincers. Nobody in the history of the world has ever learned an application “just by playing around with it”. Believe me, I tried this once when working on a traffic management system and I managed to slow the Met Police computer to a near standstill. There were some angry customers that day.

Never trust anyone who says, “I just picked it up.”

The only things that ever came close to plug-and-play were my DLink Powerline units, which allow you to run an Ethernet signal over your mains circuit. Even then I had to phone the help desk, because I didn’t quite understand the picture that came with the box. But it works (I’m typing this from the office at the end of my garden) and that’s about as good as it gets, plug-and-play wise.

So I’m deeply suspicious about this new report from the GSMA that claims mobile health(mhealth) will save the European healthcare industry €100 billion in 2017 and add €93 billion in GDP.

It all sounds too good to be true. But because it’s about tricky technology, few people in the media will ever question these claims.

I really do hope that a smartphone can lower the total annual per capita EU healthcare spend for patients by 18%, or €537. I am desperate for a 35% improvement in treatment compliance.

How are they going to achieve this? Remote patient monitoring and remote diagnostics, apparently. They’ve already scrapped house calls in the UK anyway, so there are no savings to be made there.

Who knows, maybe they will outsource all doctor’s surgeries to poorer countries, where GP’s wages are cheaper. So all local health centres would close and we’d get all primary care from an Internet doctor based in a cheap offshore tax haven.

The key, says the report, is to get the mHealth policies widely adopted. So it’s all conjecture for now. But it all sounds so easy. I reckon anyone could pick it up. I might have a ago myself, it sounds quite intuitive.

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