Pervasive Health Care

Recent advances in biosensor and wireless transmission technology has fired thinking about the potential convergences between telecommunications and healthcare. There is a growing interest within international research and policymaking into the concept of 'ubiquitous' or 'pervasive' healthcare.

Beyond the social and humanitarian arguments, there is a clear economic case for why pervasive healthcare is both a likely and optimal model towards which healthcare will evolve – at least within the developed countries. In most industrialised nations, ageing populations are putting increasing pressure on healthcare systems. This has made it necessary to find new ways to monitor and treat 'at risk' groups (including the elderly) within the spaces of everyday living, to cut the costs of providing healthcare for large populations, to increase coverage for rural and low-income areas, and to reduce the stress placed on healthcare providers.

The concept of pervasive healthcare is predicated on technological solutions, and in particular wireless network applications. For this reason, the economic forces now driving innovation within the telecommunications sector are almost certain to encourage the political and commercial adoption of pervasive healthcare applications. These extend beyond health monitoring, to telemedicine, emergency management and incidence detection, healthcare data access, communication, transportation and treatment. Applications currently being developed incorporate existing capabilities (such as location tracking, user interfaces and body sensor networks). And, to provide reliable, efficient and ubiquitous coverage, these systems will have to operate over diverse networks, including LAN, cellular and satellite.