Two-thirds of physicians own smartphones, Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, told the standing-room-only crowd at HIMSS as he kicked off the first keynote session of the 2010 annual meeting. With the emergence of the 4G network in 2010, we’ve got the infrastructure for delivering remote care with the kind of image quality even the most eagle-eyed radiologist will require, according to this telecomms CEO.

Other parts of the world that spend a much lower percentage of GDP on health care have leapfrogged the U.S. in mobile health. Globally, there are more mobile phones adopted than PCs, TVs, and cars combined. Mobile phones are the fastest adopted technology in the history of the planet, Hesse judged. The other startling statistic he pointed to is that 10 mobile phones are manufactured for every one birth on Earth. !

In health, wireless is the opportunity for patients managing Type 2 diabetes, 60% of whom don’t have the condition under control. Wireless is the infrastructure for cardiologists to remotely examine ECGs for heart attack patients as EMS workers whisk them to cardiac trauma units. Wireless moves caregivers from the bedside to the virtual side of high-risk pregnant mom-to-be leveraging the Intel Health Guide device.

Hesse notes that 4G networks will be deployed in 2010, and that spectrum will be good for securing privacy as well as moving and reading high-resolution medical images. Within four years, more than one-half of connected devices won’t be phones, Hesse predicted. They’ll be TVs and devices on bedroom nightstands streaming videos and counsel from health coaches, clinicians and caregivers.

Lest we get tethered to the idea of a device as a phone or a desktop monitor of sorts, consider the tiny pill. As Hesse held up a capsule, that smart pill that can send data and images wirelessly to a physician directly from the interior of a patient. This is the stuff of Star Trek, but it is within reach and not in a galaxy so far away.

Heatlh Populi’s Hot Points:
The lightbulb moment of the keynote wasn’t from Mr. Hesse, but from a video of Dr. William Bria of AMIA shown in the context of Hesse’s conclusion. Dr. Bria said, “there has been much hand-wringing over the past 35 years on the (slowness of) EHR adoption among doctors.” But, Dr. Bria noted, doctors needed no convincing that the MRI and CT were better tools to enabling sound diagnoses. With better access to quality bandwidth and easy to use devices, adoption and take up of phones and wireless health among doctors will be same kind of experience that opting for CT scanners was – “the value will be self-evident,” Dr. Bria forecasts.