Emre Tavşancıl, Health Products Manager, Turkcell, presented on the opportunity that Turkey’s leading telco is taking to bundle mHealth as part of the consumer product offering.

Overly positive about the “Apple effect”

It was strange to hear a telco so enthusiastic about the success of the Apple business model and how it showed them how to open up the smartphone services market because obviously this happened because operators loosened their vice like grip on the customers.

Turkish mHealth Leadership

I’ve long reported the incredible agility of Turkish mobile operators to innovate with consumer offerings (eg. Avea’s Hello Doctor 3G Video Consulting service) but Turkcell haven’t been hanging about and have rapidly extended their role into mHealth in which they see themselves as having 4 key roles:

1) Technology and infrastructure provider
2) Ecosystem catalyzer
3) Consultant and facilitator
4) Enabler

Mobile content for pregnancy and motherhood

Beyond the elaborate mHealth “Aims, Objectives and Dreams” there are clear signs that this strategy is already paying dividends although it’s unclear whether this is because of the mHealth appetite in the Turkish market or Turkcell’s legendarily talented marketing effort. All the same the reported numbers are mind boggling and continue to emphasise the Turkish Telco leadership of the mHealth market:

2% (700,000) of it’s 34 million subscribers are subscribed to the telcos mobile healthcare content
Over half of these subscribers (400,000) are pregnant women and this groups represent 1 in 3 of the pregnant women in turkey.

Although I’m not sure how they’ve used verification to ensure against duplicity (eg. presumably mum, grandmother and husband could all be registered for the one child) it’s obvious that this could suggest that pregnancy might provide an ideal time to target customers with mHealth services as it suggests as many as 60% of the pregnant subscribers with Turkcell are using the service.

The business model for this is an advertiser funded model based on highly targeted and timely communications to pregnant women and the company has developed this on from SMS into customized smart phone apps.

GP Software

Erme also revealed that Turkcell now provide 22,000 Turkish GPs with software that they “have to use” to update patient health records and follow up with their patients in order to comply with their Ministry of Health obligations.

Advantages of the Turkcell involvement means that the “software doesn’t have to stand still in the office of the GP” but can be “field based” and invaluable during “home visits”. Although the screenshots we saw looked a bit demo like the system seems well thought out and includes video CPD training, decision support tools, access to “lawyers and investment bankers” as well as a platform for launching a mobile patient relationship management service.

Erme explained how a tablet based service they have developed alerts other patients (via SMS) in an area if there are “ic10 codes” such as “high temp warnings” which seemed quite bizarre and an odd additional responsibility that Turkish Doctors are prepared to accept so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something lost here in translation.

Home Monitoring

Erme outlined how Turkcell have started selling “telehealth as a service” where the telco provides “everything, the tools, software, connection and we are expecting from the company pay per use business model”.

A key part of this strategy has been the introduction of “Bluetooth Communication Pods” that are managed by a Turkcell call centre. The devices appeared to be similar to the wall plug mounted home hubs that are marketed by firms such as Boston Life Labs and Yoritex, but Erme explained how he’d manage to get the Turkcell device cost down to “less than $100” which was critical to the success they’ve had.

A problem can’t be solved with the same level of thinking that created it

Quoting Albert Einsteen to explain the need to appreciate that mHealth is disruptive, Erme also explained the need to appreciate that companies need to extend themselves to be the “link in the system” and supportive of the service opportunities where the bigger longer term opportunities exist.

The challenges that are holding mHealth back: Awareness

Erme reminded the audience that we are part of an industry that is convening to largely “talk amongst ourselves”. I’m all too familiar with mHealth events that have zero healthcare providers attending (a key reason why I produce this review document on my blog) but it was great to hear about the initiatives that Turkcell is taking to engage healthcare providers. My favorite one was the “Health Dragons Den” initative that Turkcell are backing:

The challenges that are holding mHealth back: Liability

Erme explained why he feels the “operator cannot be a liable party in the healthcare industry” before outlining that they partnership approach they’re taking eg. with medical device makers (JnJ), medical institutions (Harvard School of Medicine) and care providers (Acibadem).

The challenges that are holding mHealth back: Integration with existing systems

Erme outlined the importance of knowing interconnections between EHR’s and showing how data will be shared. He also explained that Turkcell was only interested in companies that had registered Doctors involved as he felt that gave credibility to startups.

This blog post is part of a series of mHealth reviews from the 3rd Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit 2011. Click here to get the full review.

3 Responses to Turkcell

  1. […] seems quite similar to the services Turkish 3G Mobile Operator TurkCell have already rolled out (and are already used by 1/3 of all pregnant women in Turkey). I hope they’re learning from […]

  2. […] a bit confused about the focus. Of course I can see the enormous value of timely SMS advice (in Turkey 1 in 3 pregnant women is registered with Turkcell’s information service) but why would you want to send SMS based advice to a mum in Russia who has a $1000 Apple […]

  3. […] Related: read about how Turkcell – the dominant MNO in Turkey – has looked to SMS pregnancy guide…. […]

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