“Cell phones are amazing tools. For some of us, they’re about staying in touch. For millions of people, it could be about staying alive,” this is how Bill Gates had summarized the impact of mobile technology on healthcare industry in one of his blog posts last year. Mobile computing is finding rapid traction among doctors, health workers, clinical specialists, pharmacists, hospital administrators, patients, sports persons and fitness enthusiasts.
The growing impact of mHealth technology is evident in the recent survey findings by ABI Research which predicts that the mHealth market will grow to over $400 million by 2016 – up from $120 million in 2010. According to ABI Research, the growth will be primarily driven by sports and fitness applications. The ability for mobile handsets to easily connect to wearable devices that in turn deliver new functionality and accuracy to sports and fitness apps will be a driving factor, observes the New York based analyst firm. The key to popularity of sports and fitness apps will be the presence of Bluetooth Smart on smartphones. These devices help to monitor a range of health conditions and parameters in real-time and transmit data to handsets using ultralow power. Heart rate monitors, watches, foot pods, GPS locators and pedometers are just a few of the sensor-type devices that can help sports personnel and fitness enthusiasts to improve their results.
According to Jonathan Collins, principal analyst, “Downloadable apps are moving the sports tracking device market from proprietary devices to mobile phones, but adoption has been limited by the data they can collect. However, with the connectivity that Bluetooth Smart will embed in mobile handsets, wearable devices will bring greater detail to mobile handsets.”
Embedded wireless technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee and mobile body area network (MBAN) connectivity are also generating a lot of excitement in the health care industry. With the integration of these technologies, doctors and nurses will be able to remotely monitor patient’s vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. MBAN uses short-length radio waves to send health data over short distances. For patients, this could mean having a portable hospital and any time doctor services at their home.
While ABI Research expects sports and fitness apps to dominate mobile health application market, the research firm says that other areas such as home monitoring systems for aging users, personal emergency response services, and remote healthcare monitoring applications will also have a significant impact on the health care sector.
The latest findings on mHealth Apps published in CompTIA’s 3rd Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities Study also reflect the growing prevalence and importance of mobile applications in the health sector. The findings are based on a recent survey which covered 350 doctors, dentists and other healthcare practitioners and 400 It firms with healthcare IT practices. As per their findings, 38% of the healthcare providers use a mobile device to run a medical related app on a daily basis and this is expected to grow over to 50% in the immediate future. Three key areas where we will see significant benefits of mobile health technology, according to the CompTIA are continuing medical education (cited by 61%), specialist referral services (44%), and patient consultations (37%).
While the overall trend looks very promising, there are several issues that need to be addressed. For example, health care is an industry where even a minor mistake could result in a life or death situation, so, it’s important to have accurate data collection and real-time feedback at the point of data entry. Also, mobile health is a relatively new technology, and therefore integrating it with legacy systems and processes pose a challenge. Security and usability are some of top priorities that the developer must keep in mind while creating mobile health apps, as the applications need to be used across many departments and hierarchy of professionals.
We at RapidValue strongly believe that mHealth will unveil new dimension in the health care industry. On one side, it will transform the experience of patients by enhancing the quality and speed of health care delivery. It will also help hospitals and health care enterprises reap benefits by optimizing processes, reducing manual errors and helping to better monitor and administer different departments.
There is a huge potential if enterprises and medical practitioners in the health care industry can connect with patients, vendors and other stakeholders via diverse mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, push-to-talk devices and machine to machine remote monitoring.
Director – Business Development