Barcelona: Authorities and tech developers must stop sensitive health data entered into applications on mobile phones ending up in the wrong hands, experts warn.
As wireless telecom companies gathered in Barcelona this week at the Mobile World Congress, the sector's biggest trade fair, specialists in "e-health" said healthcare is fast shifting into the connected sphere.
"It's an inexorable tide that is causing worries because people are introducing their data into the system themselves, without necessarily reading all the terms and conditions," said Vincent Genet of consultancy Alcimed.
"In a few years, new technology will be able to monitor numerous essential physiological indicators by telephone and to send alerts to patients and the specialists who look after them."
More and more patients are using smartphone apps to monitor signs such as their blood sugar and pressure.
The European Commission estimates the market for mobile health services could exceed 17.5 billion euros (19 billion euros) from 2017.
The Chinese health ministry's deputy head of "digital health", Yan Jie Gao, said at the congress on Wednesday that the ministry planned to spend tens of billions of euros (dollars) by 2025 to equip 90,000 hospitals with the means for patients to contact them online securely.
Patients are entering health indicators and even using online health services for long-distance consultations with doctors whom they do not know.
"There is a steady increase in remote consultations with medical practitioners," particularly in the United States, said Kevin Curran, a computer scientist and senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
"Your doctor can be someone who's based in Mumbai. We have to be very careful about our data, because they're the ones who probably will end up storing your data and keeping a record of it."