The past few weeks have seen a throng of mobile health announcements that show the market is growing rapidly in a variety of interesting ways – from wirelessly-enabled nurses to the exercise equipped iPhone 5S!
First off, a new Research and Markets report shows that the mHealth market is set to grow from $6.6 billion in 2013 to $20.7 billion in 2018. The connected medical device segment makes up 80% of the market today with healthcare applications making up most of the remaining 20%.
To help get drive uptake, the mHealth Alliance has just launched the mHealth Expert Learning Program (mHELP) aimed at strengthening the mobile health capabilities of governments, the private sector and NGOs. It will provide medical organisations with free expert mHealth consultation and tools so that they can get services off the ground.
The GSMA is also helping to drive awareness of mobile health and specifically the second fastest growing application – glucose monitoring for diabetics – with its mHealth grand tour which kicked off last week. Thirty-six athletes, most with type 1 diabetes, will cycle from Brussels to Barcelona wearing wirelessly connected glucose and heart rate monitors which transmit data over the mobile broadband network to a team of scientists.
While the use of personal glucose monitoring technologies is rapidly growing today, the GSMA project shows how greater interoperability and connectivity means data can be shared directly with medical providers allowing services to be improved and alerts triggered in emergencies.
But it’s not all about the future. The variety of mHealth solutions already being used today continues to expand rapidly.
In hospitals, mobile devices are being used to monitor vital signs and to reference treatment information. Expensive medical assets are also being connected so they can be easily located and to prevent theft. This is now extending to staff and patients too. mHealth News reports that at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in the US, staff are being given connected badges which allow them to raise a location-based alert if there is a medical emergency or if they are attacked. In Saudi Arabia, all hospitals are to roll out a monitoring scheme which tracks the location of newborns on the premises.
Consumers are also directly participating in the mHealth revolution – mostly through exercise monitoring tools. According to greatcall there are now over 97,000 mobile apps for health and fitness with the top 10 generating up to four million free and 300,000 paid downloads per day. A growing number of these connect to wearable computing devices like the Nike+ Fuelband which counts calorie use by monitoring movement. However, Apple this week added this capability into the new iPhone 5S showing its intent to move into this market.
However, mHealth is set to have the most profound impact through remote patient monitoring which will reduce medical costs significantly by cutting the amount of time patients spend in hospital and by reducing the need for follow-up visits. While this constitutes the bulk of the mHealth market today, the Research and Markets report shows data insecurity could hold it back. Clearly, although low –powered, portable computing and wireless connectivity helped make mHealth possible, security solutions will be key to ensuring it realises its potential.