Imagine the gasp from the family physician when he is confronted with the first text message from a patient asking whether they are dying due to the asynchronistic patterns displayed by their new mobile app, which is being downloaded by the millions daily.  Or consider the cardiologist who suddenly has the opportunity to observe a continuous mobile data stream 24/7/365 sourced from multiple sensors on 95% of her patients, creating more data in a day than the previous decade.

For some time now I have been thinking about structures, classifications, compression, security, scaling, and synthesis of data for the anticipated big data storm just beginning to form in mobile health. Even with a healthy dose of de-hyped skepticism, the mobile health data storm promises record sustained winds, with much higher gusts.  An extension of the Internet and Web, which is often compared to a global electric grid, mobility also contains dynamics more comparable to solar winds or sea plankton, complete we intend with personalized recipes that will positively impact human behavior, diagnostics, and therapies.

While specific outcomes can only be fully understood with high-scale testing, several assumptions warrant serious consideration, including:

  • Several billion people worldwide will be introduced to lab-quality, real-time data for the first time
  • To avert chaos, mHealth data must be highly structured from inception
  • Care givers will quickly become far more conversant in computing
  • Care facilities and organizations will be transformed, with multiple new disruptive models emerging
  • Multi-dimensional visualization of human physiology will become ubiquitous from global to nano scale
  • Self-managed care will rapidly scale, as will expectations
  • Sensory implants and implanted sensors will normalize
  • Advanced data management engines will become essential cores of healthcare organizations
  • The gap between life science research and health care will begin to close
  • The velocity of discoveries will rapidly expand

In looking out to this new galaxy, it’s relatively easy to see far more dramatic change than is commonly discussed. Medicine has avoided much of the revolutionary change affecting other industries from rapid technological evolution, in large part by regulatory management, leading to a model that is no longer affordable. How might health care change when ‘democratized’ by billions of people? Who knows; a considerable amount is probably a fair guess. I am far less certain of how mobile health will change regulation than the necessity to properly manage the data, or the need for data structure, in order to optimize decision making and realize the potential of personalized medicine.

The mobile phenomenon is much different than the emergence of enterprise networks, the consumer web, or big data found within intelligence and research, but is rather more like a hybrid that borrows from each, with the extraordinarily complex individual human brain increasingly in the driver’s seat. It should prove to be a journey full of adventure, hidden obstacles, and exciting discovery.

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