Monday, July 27, 2009

Mobile Devices and Context Sensitivity

Qualcomm recently pulled the plug on development of its leading mobile health device, but the sector seems poised to grow using a non-MVNO model. What better way to deploy context-sensitive information?

Context-sensitivity makes all the difference in the world when dealing with technical terms. “Cervical”, for example, means something much different coming from an OB/GYN than from a chiropractor. If a GPS-enabled mobile device knows where the individual lives, whether he takes the elevator or stairs, and what restaurants he visits, it can provide much more helpful information to the individual. When my iPhone asks me if it is okay to “use current location” to narrow searches, it is already a step in this direction. Moreover, additional medical device technology, such as LEDs that produce a spectrum that takes a radar-like reading of blood glucose, could be bolted on for multiple levels of context sensitivity.

Privacy questions abound. For starters, take the fact that 1 in 3 Americans is obese in some populations, and that obesity is an even greater health risk than smoking. For obese persons, then, the government could impose a higher sales tax on fatty foods. This is likely an unacceptable form of discrimination, but it is technologically possible, using the same methods that insurance carriers use for realtime repricing of medical services today. Carriers tie it to the health ID card, or a health spending debit card; but it could also be tied to a transaction-enabled mobile device as well. Call it "realtime repricing of health incentives". Clearly there would have to be some overall financial incentive, such as funds parked in a health savings account, to incent an individual to agree to such a program. Can existing cafeteria plan (IRC Sec 125) regulations be modified or interpreted to permit this?

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