Efficiency and Productivity Gains Drive Uptake of Wireless Healthcare Applications

The market for wireless healthcare applications in Europe is emerging rapidly responding to technological changes. As hospitals head towards complete digitisation of image management functions and patient information through electronic medical records, they are looking to slowly integrate wireless applications and devices into their infrastructure.

A new analysis from Frost & Sullivan (http://healthcare.frost.com), European Markets for Wireless Applications in Healthcare, reveals that this industry generated revenues totalling USD 98.2 million in 2003. Total market revenues are expected to reach USD 445.8 million in 2008.

"There are several factors catalysing the absorption of wireless technology - IT connectivity where fixed lines are not possible, integrated health records and clinical decision support enhancement, streamlining processes, boosting productivity and improving internal user satisfaction," says Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Siddharth Saha.

The main challenge for wireless uptake in healthcare is the disparate sophistication levels of the  information and communications technologies adopted in healthcare throughout Europe. The widespread implementation of high-tech hospital information systems (HIS) modules is necessary to achieve quick returns on any wireless investment.

Major initiatives such as government sponsored healthcare information technology modernisation plans and mandates to adopt IT systems including electronic medical records and e-health cards, as recently stipulated by the European Commission, are positively influencing the growth of the healthcare IT industry in Europe.

"The focus is now on improving treatment protocol and bringing about efficiencies in clinical pathways and this is only possible by interfacing all clinical information systems," notes Mr. Saha.

While improved clinical information systems are expected to drive the adoption of wireless applications, the demand is likely to be for applications capable of integration with existing HIS modules. Several healthcare wireless applications vendors in Europe are already offering connectivity options with their HIS products.

Participants with proven integrated IT solutions for the healthcare market and strategic partnerships with  companies providing wireless applications are expected to do well. Apart from hard core information systems solutions, stakeholders in the European healthcare industry are also keenly looking at mobile devices. For instance, projects such as MEMO are actively involved in promoting uptake of mobile medical devices (MMDs).

MMDs can enable health professionals to access medical databases and individual electronic medical records wherever they go. Besides centralising critical patient care information, this also eases workflow and streamlines communication between clinicians, patients and payers.

As a trend, the latest technological innovations are first tried and tested in the United States before being adapted for the European markets. Nonetheless, European technology vendors are in a strong position to consolidate market share. Global participants - mainly from North America - are likely to collaborate with local companies to try and expand their market shares.

For now, focussing on research into buyer needs, preferences and expectations, monitoring technological developments worldwide and innovating to add to competitive capabilities are expected to help participants gain the edge in the burgeoning European wireless healthcare applications market.

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