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Healthcare a $55B bet for telecom

The US health care industry, including hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, represent a $55 billion opportunity for telecom service providers over the next five years, according to a new report from Insights Research. Helping to drive this spending are general trends such as an aging population and a dwindling talent pool, which will force the healthcare industry to look for more efficient ways to provide care, said Robert Rosenberg, Insight Research president.

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The report, “Telecom, IT, and Healthcare: Wireless, Wireline and Digital Healthcare, 2008-2013,” predicts US healthcare industry spending on telecom services will grow at a compounded rate of 8.4% over the five years covered in the forecast period, growing from $7.5 billion in 2008 to $11.3 billion in 2013.

“Health care is a hog at the trough of our national GDP [gross domestic product],” Rosenberg said. “It’s gone from being 6% of our GDP to being 16% to 18% -- that’s out of whack.”

The health care industry is being forced to learn how to operate more efficiently, and central to that notion is creating efficient health information networks capable of sharing not just data but high-quality images to enable more remote diagnostics that take advantage of a smaller pool of highly qualified medical personnel, Rosenberg said.

“A lot of the cost in the system right now has to do with the interface between the healthcare provider and the patient – the travel times, getting to places where people are and getting the care they need and being able to administer the care on an ongoing basis,” Rosenberg said. “There is a lot in that area, including both wired and wireless networks, that would collapse that distance between the health care provider and the patient and make it more efficient for both, in terms of their time and the quality of experience that is required.”

For instance, remote monitoring of vital statistics such as blood pressure and blood sugar would enable older patients to be constantly tracked from their homes, while peak flow meters, connected via wireless networks to the Internet, enable asthma patients to know when there is potential trouble, Rosenberg pointed out.

“We see this as a vertical that is going to pop in the next 19 months,” Rosenberg said. “Politically speaking, we think there will be changes in the next two years – whether for long-term good or a political Band-Aid we can’t be sure. But if there is a change in administration, healthcare is one of the principal things on [a Democratic administration’s] agenda.”

Governments – local, state and federal – are already actively engaged in setting up metro, regional and national health information networks, Rosenberg said, and many service providers are already targeting this segment.

Rosenberg’s advice for the telecom industry, to best prepare for the growth in heath care services, is to “bring in, internally, staff that has a good understanding of the major constituent parts in the value chain, including people who understand how healthcare insurance works, the dynamic between the hospitals and their serving physicians, and people who understand the pharmaceutical value chain – all that goes into the grand scheme called healthcare, just not docs and patients.”

Having that broader understanding will enable service providers to know better how to build partnerships and where they can add value over and above pure network transport, Rosenberg said.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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