Wireless 2G, 3G and 4G for Healthcare Applications

Posted on October 19, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today I’m attending the Mobile Health Conference (mHealth) conference in Las Vegas. So far it’s been a pretty effective conference for me already. Although, I’ve gotten most of the value from the people and vendors I’ve met and talked with. Although, is that really any surprise at a conference. More about those meetings later.

In this morning’s keynote conversation, they had executives from T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint that spoke and then did a short panel discussion. I must admit that I’d hoped for more from the panel discussion and I probably would have rather just had the whole thing a panel discussion. With that said, the most interesting topic they discussed was the 2G, 3G, and 4G topic.

Of course, they didn’t really dig into the different wireless signals like I would have liked to see. However, the executive from T-mobile said both in his speech and in the panel discussion that they’re committed to supporting 2G for 10 more years. Then, he offered this whopper: that most mHealth applications work perfectly fine on 2G and don’t actually need the higher 3G and 4G speeds.

He’s actually right that most health applications do work fine on 2G. However, I can’t help but wonder if that’s a function of there just not being enough 3G and 4G coverage to make it reasonable for a company to make an app that will only work on those faster networks.

From what I’ve seen in the internet world, applications will grow to use whatever resources they are given. Plus, there’s some applications that never get built until they have the resources to make it a reasonable reality.

So, while it may be true that the health applications of today generally work well on 2G, it’s worth asking what applications would we have if 3G and 4G were more widely available? I think we’re getting close to the point that we’ll find out. I imagine most EMR software would be happy to use whatever bandwidth you give them. Not to mention it would improve the user experience.

A few other quick hits:
-The AT&T executive (I believed) argued that they’re getting 4G speeds with 3G technology. So, why should they move to 4G?
-The Sprint executive nailed it on the head when he said that time is the economy of today. Higher speeds and better applications will save people time and that’s valuable.
-I can’t help but wonder where Verizon is. 3 out of 4 isn’t bad though.