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Could Health Care Inject More Life into NFC?

This past Monday, NFC Cluster Boston held an event at MIT entitled “NFC in Smartphones Transforms Healthcare.” Given MIT’s long track record of technology innovation, we were particularly excited to hear what some of the leading minds were thinking about NFC and its potential in health care. Furthermore, whereas the majority of NFC events are related to contactless payment and other B2C applications, we thought this conference would provide exposure to some innovative use-cases beyond the aforementioned “usual suspects.”  I enjoyed the discussions and presentations, particularly the open-floor panel, and appreciated the vision of the topics that were discussed; however, I wound up leaving the event thinking that NFC in health care is still a ways away. 

For the most part, the solutions featured at Monday’s event were for in-home patient use and involved some sort of monitoring or tracking functionality.  For example, one of the solutions tracks adherence to a prescribed course of medicine, while another monitors and records sleep patterns.  In my opinion, the biggest issue facing these use-cases is that NFC offers little value and no compelling reason for the patient to use the solution on an ongoing basis. 

While we do recognize there is potential value in providing health care professionals and health insurance provides a transparent perspective on a patient’s activity (as it relates to their medical condition/treatment), from the patient’s perspective, it is difficult to see a compelling value proposition.  Furthermore, we question how willing patients will be—and how often they will remember—to use their NFC smartphone to record health care-related activity. We think patients could find such applications potentially invasive, and without some sort of incentive or reward for their continued use, it will be difficult to otherwise force them into using them on an ongoing basis.

We know there is opportunity in health care opportunity for NFC, but specific use-cases and applications need time to evolve before adoption can begin.  Health care enterprises are among the most conservative in regards to technology investment, so any NFC solution targeting this vertical must offer an undeniable value proposition. Vendors could look to deliver value on any number of dimensions, including cost reduction, improved care accuracy and regulatory compliance, just to name several. But, bear in mind—if the patient is expected to play an active role in utilizing the solution, they too must receive compelling value in order to ensure its use.

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