Or a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Before the smartphone app market brought new life to the mHealth market mHealth service providers struggled to scale their solutions. Most of them never made it out of the trial stage. Some of them were just too basic, such as simple pill reminders running on SMS as the primary delivery technology. More complex solutions that were based on eHealth initiatives integrated the features of a mobile device with a database (electronic health records), but failed mainly because of political barriers and low awareness amongst patients.
Benefits of integrated electronic healthcare solutions
Nevertheless, the benefits of those integrated solutions are evident. Here are some examples:
- For doctors and patients: reduced double examinations, reduced risk of wrong medications
- For the pharma companies: direct access to patient’s drug usage behavior. Apps are a unique tool to attach it to their products and to differentiate themselves from competition.
- For insurance companies: reduce health care spending and improve patient outcome
But with the exception of a few countries those solutions either remained as isolated pilots and/or struggled with all kinds of barriers from health care stakeholders.
Successful examples of e-Health and m-Health record systems
Sweden is one of the countries that might become a benchmark for a successful implementation of an electronic health record system which could also be accessed with a mobile device. Another exception in the next years could become the USA just because of the amount of money (2 bn USD) which has been allocated to their HITECH initiative. A central part of that initiative is the national electronic health record and the mobile access to the data. Besides those few examples most of the national health record projects stagnate. It is not clear when national health systems support the usage of those integrated mHealth solutions. Companies involved in these projects will have to have deep pockets or have other revenue sources.
Re-Thinking mobile health strategies
As it is not clear when those integrated solutions will become widely accepted around the globe, so more and more “e- and mhealth” service provides are rethinking their strategy, turning away from those complex and integrated solutions needing acceptance of all national healthcare stakeholders to more simple patient centric services. For most of them it is clear that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
This rethinking process goes hand in hand with the upcoming of the smartphone app market. In the next 5 years the smartphone app market will help the mHealth industry to reach another level. mHealth apps will be widely used and will demonstrate to a large audience the technological possibilities inherent in the smart-phone, educate patients and doctors, provide proof of envisioned cost savings for health insurance providers and will allow companies eventually to make money.
Business potential of the mobile healthcare market
The amount of money that could be made in the mHealth app market is just a fraction compared to the total potential size of the market when all integrated solutions are in place and used by doctors and hospitals. But the app market is out there now. Companies can scale up their services and learn how to adapt to the changing market, and should do so as soon as possible. In addition, it is not unlikely that the patients themselves become the main drivers of the market because they understand the benefits of, for example, a compliancy app, and are willing to provide some personal and health related data to make the service work. Just think of the data they provide on Facebook. In the end it just might as well be that the regulators and healthcare stakeholders are forced to take action because of the millions of patients using mHealth apps. It wouldn’t have been the first time…
Any comments and feedback are very welcome.
For more information on the smartphone based mHealth market and its business opportunities for healthcare provides please see our latest report on the mHealth market: “Mobile Health Market Report 2010-2015”.