Vodafone – the world’s biggest multinational Mobile Operator – makes an about turn on mHealth

Taking part in a panel discussion on ‘The Role of Health Informatics and Connected Healthcare Technologies’ today at the Healthcare & Life Sciences Summit in London Axel Nemetz, Vodafone’s Head of mHealth Solutions, announced a sharp turn around in the company’s outlook.

This is a very welcome development as only a couple of months ago Axel had told an audience at the Mobile Health Summit in Cape Town that he couldn’t see any global scale in mHealth and was looking to drop the ‘m’ in mHealth.

Obviously I thought this was a very poor prediction (eg. we’re more likely to drop the ‘health’ rather than the ‘m’!) but it seems Axel has had a change of heart because at todays event he’s also corrected his outlook from one where he considered mHealth to be struggling to scale to an acceptance that Vodafone have actually (as I’ve made very clear here) been making money at scale from mHealth since the 1990’s (aligning himself with my beliefs that like most of the big mobile operators Vodafone was practically seed funded by mHealth).

My thoughts on the talk:

> Great to see Vodafone at last recognising the long history it has of doing mHealth business at scale:

I think this will help Vodafone’s mHealth strategy going forward as there is much more acceptance in the healthcare industry of firms that can point to their established role as opposed to new market entrants offering something novel and uncertain.

> It’s interesting to see Vodafone have at last put together a “mHealth Mission” but it fails to work for me as I find it highlights some very significant misunderstandings of the healthcare industry:

Perhaps there’s a reason why they’re completely ignoring carers?

> SMS Drug Authentication

I’m not sure the mobile operators are getting any credibility from trying to suggest that the counterfeit drug market in emerging markets has been impacted by SMS authentication services.

Any business person in that audience is going to realise counterfeit meds (especially ones that as Axel suggests are being bought from someone who is “actually not a pharmacist but is very often the owner of a corner shop”) aren’t going to be very different to counterfeit branded car parts, perfumes, trainers or handbags.

By basic reasoning surely if this was robust and ready for market (rather than just yet another loop hole the counterfeiters would step through) with meds costing just a few pence in markets with patchy network coverage it would already be adopted by premium brands seeking to assure customers that for example they’re buying genuine tickets for a global sporting event like the London Olympics.

> I get the impression that Axel’s getting carried away with the results from his small scale pilot projects.

Just because patients like having expensive hospital equipment and nursing staff arriving into their homes 4 times a year or are reluctant to give back free tablet PCs and smartphones you’ve lent to them doesn’t unfortunately mean you’ll have luck finding someone willing to pay for it.

> The mHealth team is going to start focusing on the Senior Mobile market:

It’s interesting to hear about Vodafones research in Spain in this area but as someone who’s been active in this space for years (click here to hear my mHealth talk from the Senior Mobile Market 2010 Conference) I think Vodafone would do better to take over or partner with a brand with expertise in the sector as I don’t think they yet appreciate how difficult this market is to enter and much of the research it looks like they’re trying to do has already been done by firms that Vodafone should be looking to as partners (not competitors) eg. Doro with their already very well polished “Doro Experience”:

A good clue that Vodafone is out of it’s depth on this can be had by listening to Axel outlining some fundamental misunderstandings he has about the way this will all work out:

elderly people receive a tablet PC and can connect every morning to their Medical Doctor via video conferencing call then you have it in the homes of the elderly people some motion sensors and other sensors which also allow us to see if the elderly people are doing well and maybe provide a text message to the children that everything’s okay and this is a system that we recently piloted in Spain and we had severe issues getting back our kits from the trialists because people enjoyed it a lot and this is a product you should hopefully expect from us very soon

Perhaps they’d be better off starting with something that’s more stand alone, easier to manage and has a wider and more immediate/obvious appeal eg. a Mobile Connected Smoke/CO Monitor.

> Vodafone’s 2020 mHealth Predictions

Nice to see Axel’s got confidence that we’re all going to be doing a lot more video consulting with healthcare professionals but the idea of healthcare facilities becoming places that we use as a “last resort” might not be as far off as he thinks eg. for billions of uninsured patients around the world they already are used in this way.

Click here to watch the rest of the video presentations from the UKTI’s British Business Embassy conference

About David Doherty

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1 Response to Vodafone – the world’s biggest multinational Mobile Operator – makes an about turn on mHealth

  1. Pingback: The world’s first major Healthcare brand to take a Mobile First strategy is helping Pew Research, why aren’t you? « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

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