The GSMA has announced that mobile technology will play a significant role in the provision of healthcare services globally and predicts the growth of the m-health market will lead to a revenue opportunity worth $23 billion by 2017.
In a new report, the GSMA suggests that in spite of the advancements in medical technologies and a general increase in income levels, healthcare continues to pose challenges of affordability, complexity and access across the world.
In contrast, mobile access is almost ubiquitous. With the increasing penetration of smartphones and new and innovative ‘connected devices’, and the proliferation of Mobile Broadband networks and services worldwide, mobile will play a far greater role in healthcare in both developed and developing countries in the future.
Jeanine Vos, executive director, m-health at the GSMA, told Smart Chimps: 'On the one hand, looking at this from a global perspective, the healthcare system is really under pressure everywhere to reduce costs and increase access to services. At the same time, there are more than five billion mobile phone subscribers globally, with good coverage from network operators. These two strands are coming together to provide new healthcare services, better support for the healthcare system, and better care for the individual.'
She added: 'By 2017, mobile technology will be a key enabler of healthcare delivery reaching every corner of the globe. With developed countries needing to reduce the cost of universal healthcare, and developing countries looking to roll out life-saving services to in-need communities, mobile technology offers the ability to deliver highly effective, scalable and affordable healthcare beyond the confines of a hospital or doctor’s surgery.'
The findings are from a new report, ‘Touching Lives through Mobile Health: Assessment of the Global Market Opportunity’, conducted by PwC for the GSMA, which looks at the key challenges the healthcare industry is facing worldwide and the opportunity mobile technology provides in overcoming these challenges.
In terms of the market opportunity, the research found that the provision of pervasive m-health services and applications worldwide could provide mobile operators with revenues worth approximately $11.5 billion by 2017. Device vendors could benefit from a revenue opportunity of $6.6 billion, content and application providers $2.6 billion, and healthcare providers $2.4 billion by 2017.
Vos continued: 'Mobile has the potential to have a really big impact on the healthcare system, on individuals in being able to manage their own health better, and on individuals and healthcare workers to have the right information at their fingertips, to make better decisions, and for everyone to be healthier for longer.'
Europe will become the largest m-health region by 2017 with revenues of $6.9 billion, according to the GSMA. Asia Pacific will be the second-largest region with revenues of $6.8 billion, North America could account for $6.5 billion, Latin America $1.6 billion and Africa $1.2 billion. In terms of individual countries, the US could benefit from revenues of $5.9 billion, accounting for a quarter of the global m-health market by 2017, and revenues in China and Japan could reach $2.5 billion and $1.4 billion respectively.
To enable this opportunity, however, governments, regulators and healthcare providers need to work with mobile operators and organisations in the broader m-health ecosystem, including device vendors and content and application players, to support the roll out and adoption of new m-health services. This includes several key factors: Government support: Only when Governments worldwide embrace
constructive policy agendas for m-health, will the market start to achieve its potential and scale rapidly; Regulatory support: Regulators need to proactively address the
issues that currently limit the growth of m-health services, certification, interoperability and standardisation; Healthcare industry acceptance: Clear benefit studies from key
players in the m-health ecosystem, as well as government support, are vital to driving acceptance in the medical profession; User adoption: Widespread user adoption will help drive the exponential growth and market opportunity for m-health. This will be supported by recommendations from medical professionals, overall service affordability and widespread availability of content and devices.
'There’s no doubt that collaboration is critical. Leading carriers, device manufacturers, health plans and providers all need to come together to help transform m-health from a niche play into widescale implementation as a standard of care,' added Eleanor Chye, Eeecutive director, mobility healthcare and pharma, mobility product management, AT&T Business Solutions. 'All of us have to step up and adopt these solutions and drive them into the care delivery system. It’s going to take adoption on the patient side and integration on the delivery side.'
Vos noted: 'Mobile technology has enabled individuals to do things automatically. For diabetics, they can use glucose metres on their mobile phones to better manage their disease, and doctors have a better view of their patients. As well as for specific problems like diabetes and cardiac disease, this technology can be applied also to expanded home living solutions. This is an example of how a technology can support health care in finding new ways of doing things.'
Monitoring services, such as those for chronic disease management, will account for 65% of the market ($15 billion) by 2017. One example is T-Mobile’s CardioMessenger Service that offers remote cardiac monitoring for patients in Germany.
Diagnosis services will be the second-largest segment, comprising 15% of the global m-health market ($3.4 billion). This includes mobile telemedicine and health call centres that allow those in isolated areas to connect with healthcare professionals, such as the Telenor Teledoctor service in Pakistan, which offers 24/7 access to qualified physicians.
Treatment services will be the third largest revenue opportunity at 10% of the overall market ($2.3 billion). Current examples include services that ensure patients adhere to treatment schedules, such as Vitality Glow Caps that remind users via SMS and through calls that they should take their medication.
Vos added: 'This report not only highlights the revenue opportunity m-health will provide, but crucially, it also proves the feasibility of mobile services supporting healthcare is greater than ever before. M-health is not only here to stay, but is expected to drive major changes in the delivery of healthcare worldwide.
'However, it is critical that governments and regulators the world over, as well as the healthcare profession, embrace this opportunity and work with the mobile industry to ensure that it is fully realised.'
The GSMA began its m-health programme 18 months ago. It began to track the numerous pilots going on globally back then, and is now able to report over 300 commercial deployments of m-health around the world. Vos stated: 'Services are here today, and we are now trying to drive the market forward. It’s a very complicated area, and there’s lots of room for partnerships.'