Hype surrounding mHealth is at an all time high. Mobile eHealth or mHealth encompasses the use of mobile telecommunications as they are integrated within the health care delivery systems and is part of a movement towards citizen-centered health service delivery. Major trade bodies such as the GSMA are firmly committed to mHealth through a partnership with the Continua Health Alliance, while mobile operators such as Orange are also involved in mHealth initiatives
Every analysis of mHealth I have ever seen begins with the same argument: that there are 6.75B people in the world and 4.6B mobile subscriptions, and that developing markets are showing the fastest growth (obviously as penetration is so low!).
Establishing mobile penetration does not in itself validate the mHealth concept! Moreover, many of the commitments are lukewarm, promising to invest in scalable solutions etc. However, mHealth has been around since 2001, and is clearly a valuable in the fight against illness and disease, but has failed to gain serious traction in that time, so what is next?
Significant sums are being invested in supply chain optimization for suppliers, enterprise IT software (CRM systems), asset tracking, monitoring and proactive maintenance (tissue chambers etc). Moreover, regulation in developed markets such as HIPAA play a key role in the choice of solution. Cellular has a key part to play in these areas, but is only part of something broader. We are only now getting towards the stage where we can talk about monitoring devices or mobile phones in a user’s hand.
To extract the true value from mHealth, mobile applications will need to be part of a broader set of business processes. What is clear is that the concept of mHealth is related to mBusiness as well as to eHealth and eBusiness:
- eHealth refers to healthcare practice which is supported by electronic processes and communication.
- mHealth is the mobile extension of healthcare applications into the mobile domain and is a subset of eHealth.
- eBusiness represents all the technological applications and business processes that enable a healthcare provider to offer a service, including front and back-office systems, essentially the utilization of information and communication technologies (ICT) in support of all the activities of business.
- mBusiness includes the tools required to enable eBusiness applications, such as a mobile application platform (MAP).
mHealth will be extremely viable, and valuable, but it will need to be more than an application that displays a users symptoms on a handset (I will be doing a future post on applications in mHealth, but there are already reports on M2M in healthcare here and a report on mobile healthcare applications here). Indeed, it will need to be part of a broader mBusiness and eBusiness strategy. Given that these rollouts require significantly more investment, it is clear that the mHealth that can bring real change will need to be part of a broader ecosystem.