As the dust of the dotcom crash clears, 2002 will be the year that the e-health gets down to business and begins to deliver with health providers and pharmaceutical firms realising the value of networked communications.

In its Top 10 Healthcare Predictions for 2002, Forrester Research, offers its reading of the tea leaves for what will be hot in US e-health over the coming year.

The key messages are that after years of trials and pilots 2002 will be the year big pharmaceutical firms get serious about e-business and consumers begin to benefit from intelligent decision support and disease management tools.

Top of the list is the observation that pharmaceutical firms will increasingly integrate e-business investments into their core business activities. Investment will continue to flow into customer relationship management systems and increasingly but also increasingly to electronic data capture to speed up and cut the vast costs of clinical trials.

Forrester predicts that the big pharma firms will collectively tackle long-standing acute shortages of candidates for clinical trials by forming a consortium to recruit candidates for trials online.

A key driver of e-health adoption among family doctors is identified as the spread of authenticated digital signatures, which will pave the way for e-prescribing, e-detailing and online consultations. Forrester notes that the Californian Medical Association is in the van of issuing such digital authentication, via MEDePass.

Family practitioners are also identified as the key group that will drive the adoption of handheld devices, particularly for e-prescribing: electronically writing prescriptions and sending them to a pharmacy. Forrester predict the number of physicians using such devices to prescribe will treble by the end of 2002.

In the health IT market the main prediction is that the big hospital information system (HIS) vendors such as Cerner will target the practice management sector for growth. Other big HIS vendors will promote add ons to existing systems that provide handheld access to hospital data like lab results and vital signs.

E-health will also begin to get personal as a new range of smart implantable or wearable medical and monitoring devices, such as sensing shirts and armbands, receive regulatory approval.

One recent approval highlighted was for an implantable defibrillator that alerts patients when a reading needs a doctor’s attention. "A new wave of external devices from companies like Bodymedia and VivoMetrics will soon win FDA approval," predicts Forrester.

As US large employers shift more health insurance costs onto their employees they will equip their newly "empowered" employees with online decision-support tools to ease the pain, says the analyst firm.

It says this shift will provide WebMD, Sageo, WellMed and other providers of e-benefit and self-help tools with a vital second lease of life. The shift will also make 2002 a "breakout year for online disease management firms such as Health Dialog and American Healthways.

E-Health Firms Tipped by Forrester for 2002







American Healthways