The announcement of the latest report from John Moore at Chilmark Research states “the market is abuzz about all things mHealth” and that there is a potential market valued at more than “$1.1B by 2017″ (which is a nice update from John’s 2010 “is it a market” judgement but conflicts with my opinion that it exceeded this many moons ago due to the important contribution it’s made to adoption of the newest Trillion $ industry).
I had some thoughts on the post announcing the availability of the report:
“a lot of the current hype will overinflate expectations of impatient technology investors foraying into this unfamiliar space, greatly increasing the potential for high rates of failure as these investors pull the plug on their young prospects“
This is something I hear a lot of undue concern about. If you believed it you’d think there are naive investors out there jostling shoulders to fund the next bit of code with a mHealth tag that a Silicon Valley app developer can punch out. I think the reality is very different and that it’s just a natural outcome of an aging tech investor community that there’s an increasing interest in opportunities that leverage the newest mass media to radically transform the bloated reactive sickcare industry.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Probably not because every one of us is actually very good and experienced at being customers of healthcare services (aka patients). John himself proves this in the post where he states:
“We even wrote a piece recently about a personal experience using the iTriage app to self-diagnose E. Coli poisoning“
As you can see in John’s glowing write up of the iTriage service (to save you the jump this free app possibly saved his fathers life) we’re much better at evaluating the value of this type of innovation than we are at say appraising the opportunity in a new medical device, technique or pharmaceutical target which will be bought initially by people who have very different objectives and needs from us (eg. will this enable me to bill an insurer for more?).
“For the report, we started with the definition of mHealth from the WHO report mHealth, New Horizons for Health Through Mobile Technologies, published in 2011: “…mHealth or mobile health is medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants and other wireless devices”. We then narrowed the scope to those offerings that went beyond mere monitoring and are truly engaging care providers in more continuous, patient-centered care“
It always amazes me that people can be so accepting of a definition that is so obviously wrong just because there is some assumed authority of its author. When did you last see/use a PDA? I get that Americans sometimes call the “mobile industry” the “wireless industry” but what’s a wireless device in 2012? Is my reflex hammer a wireless device?
To me the healthcare world needs to quickly realise that mobile is not a device but a completely new mass media. As we go forward to the time frames that this report projects to (2017) we’ll increasingly see many of the healthcare opportunities aren’t even going to originate from the device in our hands but from the analysis of the data that is already being created by the smart networks that continually track and monitor these devices.
Limiting it to medical and public health practice is already futile as in many cases the really exciting bits don’t even look like healthcare eg. the inbox screen protector AT&T supply on their texter focused devices:
“What we found should surprise no one that follows this market: there is almost no current market demand for such solutions, and offerings today remain in perpetual pilot stage“
In my opinion this statement is a natural consequence of not having an adequate definition of mHealth. If Johns’ right and there is “no current market demand” imagine there was a car crash outside your window right now and then ask yourself the following question:
What would be the first thing you’d think of grabbing?
If you don’t think calling 911 = mHealth then go and talk to a Emergency Service Call Handler because across the world they and the response teams they manage will be using a wide variety of mobile technology to enable the delivery of this life saving service including caller ID, LBS’s, wireless data, video calling, digital pen/paper, etc to manage and deliver the services they offer.
Unfortunately for readers of the report “offerings today remain in perpetual pilot stage” probably suggests there’s not going to be a mention of the massive mHealth success stories that are already being shared widely eg. the million plus patients in the USA that have used KP’s mHealth service in it’s first month of availability.
I fail to see how anyone could consider a million patients using a new digital service on their mobile phone to be a pilot and KP obviously don’t think so either – they recently announced that they would be the worlds first major healthcare brand to adopt a Mobile First approach going forward.
Would I buy the report?
Despite all the above, I’m a very big fan of Chilmark Research and it has a great reputation for quality insights into the US healthcare IT market and I have no doubt this presents lots of value to anyone considering targeting this market. US Telcos (eg. AT&T mHealth) are directly targeting this market and have great appetite of mHealth start ups that can show they add value (eg. their multimillion $ deal with WellDoc Inc) so it’s not hard to see how you’ll get value for money for your $’s by gaining these indepth market insights and knowledge of potential customers.