The talk by David McCarron, EMEA Healthcare Lead, illustrated perfectly the importance that we’re strict about a definition of mHealth. He’s taken the definition directly from the UN’s mHealth Alliance: “the use of mobile devices in health solutions” and shown how this can be misinterpreted to include laptops and fit a distorted perspective that suggests functionality goes had in hand with device form factor increases:

In my opinion this massively underestimates the potential of the smartphone – which should rightly be placed in the bottom right hand corner of this table as leveraged fully it can offer a much more immersive experience with much more functionality – unless of course Intel are now selling notebooks with Augmented Reality, camera and motion sensors that are supported by armies of developers?

Providing a great example of error carried forward David went onto argue that the NetBook is the “best device” for mHealth workers in India. Claiming data entry on a feature phone or tablet to be “cumbersome” makes for a great excuse to not bother trying to design something better and it humours me to think that I write this rather too wordy blog using voice recognition or a touch screen mobile device (it’s worth stating that I can Swype quicker than most people can type on a keyboard).

To claim a mobile is easily broken or stolen is also just nonsense when you consider the terrain mHealth workers in India face:

I made a point of this in 2009 in reference to a London Housing Estate but I think the same applies: I’d feel much safer with a pocketable device concealed in my pocket than a netbook in a rucksack attached to my back (so everyone can see I’ve got it with me).

All the same it’s a very interesting time for Intel and I think they could make some big mHealth noises in 2011:

> We’re just about to see their chips released in Nokia’s new high end line up of deivces running the new Meego OS.

> It’s the last month for Intel Digital Health before the service merges with GE – the new organisation commences 31st January. I have no doubt this will raise the stakes.

> They’ve just signed up to be foundation members of the new European mHealth Alliance – which is rather odd in that David told the audience how they’ve “been engaged with the UN for the last 8 months”. In case you’re not aware the UN has it’s own mHealth Alliance that is somewhat competitive with this new similarly named for-profit organisation.

David said something I found particularly interesting in the Q&A with a delegate from Turkcell on the subject of offering services at the price point of “$2 a day”: “I don‘t know how you can do that”. I really like to hear that as “I don’t know” is one of the most welcome but underused phrases you hear in medicine. All the same I wonder if it would help if it was reframed as “$700 a year” and if they were taking a more open minded approach to innovation. Tomi Ahonen (in a discussion over at Forum Oxford’s Next Generation Mobile Applications Panel – something I’d definitely encourage you to join if you want to learn about the latest mobile content developments) explains this much better than I ever could:

I think there is a degree of open-mindedness about mobile. If we go to the West Coast of the USA, its a PC mindset, desperately trying to fit the mobile phone (smartphone) into the PC world. In most of the rest of the indsutrialize world, there are both in quite strong measure, so while for example Finland is considered ‘mobile-centric’ – Finland’s PC penetration rate and internet connectedness has been far ahead of the USA for a long while (And Finland made broadband access a legal right as the first country to do so already). So also in Finland there is that ‘balancing’ of the PC and mobile.

But in India, the PC and (PC based) internet penetration rates are so low, that most who are in the tech industries, tend to see the mobile as the obvious digital platform, in a kind of ‘first media’ kind of thinking, where the PC comes very far behind, as a second choice. Japan is there too, but even in Japan the PC is a strong close second choice. In India, the PC option is very distant second choice. This allows a lot of open-mindedness about what is possible on mobile, without obsessing about ‘converting’ or ‘adapting’ PC metaphors and user-experiences and business models onto mobile.

Combine that with enormous growth of the industry, a giant economy, and a lot of very well trained engineers and mathematicians and programmers, and an English-speaking environment, and we have a vast economic opportunity for mobile innovation from India. I would expect many future award-winners and innovators to come from India specifically..

This blog post is part of a series of reviews from the inaugural Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit Middle East. Click here to get the full review.

About 3G Doctor

The Corporate Blog of 3G Doctor
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