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Point of View: Smartphone Key To Our Connection To Consumers

There is no single subject in our culture today getting more attention than health care and where that industry is heading. The politicians aside, there is much to talk about on the subject beyond insurance systems and government programs. Probably, the most profound discussions are centered on where technology may be leading the medical profession, where things are going regarding how consumers interface with the system. What we are on the threshold of is digital health care – a paradigm-shifting health care delivery system that seems too good to be true, and literally ready for launch right now.

Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and chief academic officer of San Diego-based Scripps Health, is leading the effort. And, last January, NBC News did an extensive report on what is going on there and what it could mean to all of us in the not-too-distant future. And, as the NBC Rock Center segment stated in the intro of the report, it all centers on “how your smartphone may change medicine, including warning you of a heart attack.”

Topol, labeled by many as the foremost expert in the exploding field of wireless medicine, said in the NBC report that billions of dollars are wasted every year for screening and unnecessary medications because people are “being treated like a cattle herd” in the frantic fee-for-service, litigation-happy world we live in. Topol expressed the view in the January TV report that a third of drugs prescribed are a “total waste” and mass screenings represent “medicine dumbed down” by treating everyone the same.

For Topol and the experts working on what he calls the iDoctor project, the future of medicine will be built around the smartphone – and the technology already exists for countless diagnostic and treatment devices that will allow medical professionals to exam, test and treat patients remotely through the now omnipresent smartphones we all carry. Blood tests, ultrasounds, EKGs and other diagnostic tools can easily be in the hands of patients, directly connected to medical professionals, giving the health care delivery system more flexibility, more efficiency and a reduced overall cost, while giving all parties access to an effective system that serves all parties in the system better.

Further detail on this subject isn’t necessary here for the sake of our discussion. But, if you want more, click here to see the entire NBC report.

The reason I raise this example is a simple one, and one that is both intuitive and rational.

The independent automotive aftermarket – and specifically the vehicle service sector – is quickly moving toward a potential paradigm shift that will effectively change the future of how this critical industry interfaces with the American consumer. The key piece of the puzzle – connectivity – is now in place with today’s smartphone technology. And how we, as an industry, get ourselves plugged into the system will determine our future and how we are positioned to be of service to future car owners.

Like it or not, this was a key driver in the Right To Repair fight and continues to be of concern as we move forward now with no currently declared system that gives us a truly functional place in the process between vehicle telematics and the potential service and repair community.

Right now, mostly in the background, a lot is going on in developing technology and systems that guarantee us a place in the connectivity system and that, most importantly, gives the American consumer a real choice in where they get their vehicles serviced. That gives us an opportunity, and that is all we need to win the jobs and serve the consumers.

Over the course of the next year or two, things will move quickly at times, and the system will begin to take shape, both technologically as well as in putting the pieces in place to give us access to today’s vehicles and today’s vehicle owners.

If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the paradigm shifting.

Gary A. Molinaro

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