Emerging markets lead the way in mobile health, followed by the US as
the most mature market. Source: Economist Intelligence Unit for PwC
The market for smartphone applications for mobile health is going to double this year, to reach $1.3 billion — and the market is still in embryonic state, says the organisation that carried out the survey.
Berlin-based Research2guidance says that the apps market was $104 million in 2010, then $718 million in 2011 — almost a 600% increase. This year’s rise, says Research2guidance, won’t be quite so high, but it will be an 81% increase to get to that forecast $1.3 billion.
That’s still a tiny percentage of the world’s total healthcare market, said by the same organisation to be worth $6 trillion — more than 4,000 times the current market for smartphone m-health apps.
Other organisations echo Research2guidance’s feelings about the potential growth in mobile health.
Berg Insight forecast at the end of 2011 that the number of home monitoring systems with integrated communication capabilities has been growing at a annual rate of 18% from 2010 to reach 4.9 million connections globally by the end of 2016.
Berg said that the number of medical devices with integrated cellular connectivity is growing at about 34.6% a year. There were around 420,000 in 2010 but will be 2.47 million in 2016, says Berg.
A report published by PwC in June 2012 says that widespread adoption of mobile technology in healthcare is now viewed as inevitable in both developed and emerging markets around the world, but the pace of adoption will likely be led by emerging markets and lag consumer demand.
The study, by the Economist Intelligence Unit for PwC Global Healthcare suggests that emerging markets will lead the way, followed by the US as the most developed market.
Consumers have high expectations for m-health, particularly in developing economies where mobile phones are in common use, suggests PwC. “In emerging markets, consumers perceive m-health as a way to increase access to healthcare while patients in developed markets see it as a way to improve the convenience, cost and quality of healthcare,” the report says.
Dr David Levy, PwC’s global healthcare leader, commented: “Despite demand and the obvious potential benefits of m-health, rapid adoption is not yet occurring. The main barriers are not the technology but rather systemic to healthcare and inherent resistance to change. Though many people think mobile health will be ancillary or bolted on to the healthcare industry, we look at it differently: m-health is the future of healthcare, deeply integrated into delivery that will be better, faster, less expensive and far more customer-focused.”
Consumers have high expectations, says the EIU in the port. Some 46% believe m-health will improve the convenience, 52% say it will improve cost and 48% say it will improve quality of their healthcare.
Again, around half say they expect m-health will change the way they manage chronic conditions, their medication and their overall health. Mobile health systems are already replacing some visits to doctors or nurses, said 59% of those who are already using them. But 60% of consumers say doctors are not as interested in m-health as patients and technology companies are.
And that is backed up by another finding of the survey: physicians are more cautious than consumers in their outlook for m-health. Doctors believe there are too few proven business models.
Few doctors encourage patients to use m-health applications to become more active in managing their health, found the EIU, and 13% actually discourage it. A remarkable 42% of doctors surveyed worry that m-health will make patients too independent.
Public sector doctors cited lack of existing technology as the biggest barrier to greater use of mobile health. Only 40% have access to wireless connectivity at work.
The application of inappropriate regulations originally developed for earlier technologies is slowing the adoption of m-health, said some, and others cited an inherently conservative culture as a leading barrier.
Christopher Wasden, PwC’s global healthcare innovation leader, said: “The adoption of mobile health in emerging markets versus developed markets is a paradox. In developed markets, m-health is perceived as disrupting the status quo, whereas in emerging countries it is seen as creating a new market, full of opportunity and growth potential. In younger, developing economies, healthcare is less constrained by healthcare infrastructure and entrenched interests. Consumers are more likely to use mobile devices and m-health applications, and more payers are willing to cover the cost of m-health services.”
Berg Insight points out that e-health is a long established term for healthcare practice supported by electronic processes and communication. “More recently, m-health has begun to appear as a term for e-health using mobile phones or cellular networks.” It is “a very broad term that principally involves every kind of mobile health related communication, application or data service.”
Home health monitoring appears to be the most likely area for development of m-health, says Berg, which lists a number of chronic diseases, including cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, ischemic diseases, sleep apnea, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
Berg Insight estimates that more than 200 million people in the EU and the US suffer from one or several diseases where home monitoring can become a treatment option.
According to Research2guidance, a number of big healthcare companies have published m-health apps that go far beyond a simple allergy tracker or pill reminder.
In 2012 there will be 247 million mobile users who have downloaded a smartphone m-health application at least once. That compares with 124 million in 2011.
The technical aspects of the healthcare landscape are changing rapidly and fundamentally, notes Research2guidance. It’s a changing market, and smartphones are at the heart of this new, fast growing industry. GTB
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