According to a recent Deloitte survey, 78 percent of senior mobile industry executives view healthcare as the most promising new growth channel for 4G services. Deloitte conducted about 250 interviews with senior executives from mobile network operators, mobile device manufacturers, software applications developers and infrastructure component manufacturers and finished analyzing the results last August. After healthcare and the life sciences, those interviewed picked the retail industry and the financial industry as the second and third most promising industry verticals for mobile growth potential.
Deloitte's report, which is freely available here, includes a discussion of the trends driving mHealth as well as a summary of the barriers holding it back:
"Before the real breakthroughs occur on a scale required to address escalating healthcare costs, mHealth adoption needs to build momentum by overcoming some important hurdles. To begin with, more trials are required to broaden the disease and population samples and align them with FDA recommendations. To date, trials have been carried out on a selective basis but need to broaden to end the uncertainty about the true extent of health benefits to the patient, and the subsequent effect of reducing hospital readmissions and caregiver visits. This should also help broaden commitment from the healthcare industry’s insurance sector, which so far has been reluctant to provide coverage for patients using these technologies. In parallel, pricing on RPM devices needs to align with current consumer electronics price points to stimulate consumer demand and ensure widespread adoption," Deloitte wrote in the report.
The report includes one head scratcher: "Analysts tracking the flow of activity in this area predict a threefold spike in apps available in 2012 from a baseline of 200 million available in 2010." The reference is to a Pyramid Research report from December 2010 that proved confusing to many at the time, too. Pyramid's 200 million figure treated downloaded apps as units referred to the number of apps in use at the time not the number of different kinds of health apps available. It was more of a figure for total number of downloads than total number of health app options available.
The number of consumer health apps available is still between 10,000 and 20,000. Available professional medical apps are even fewer in number. There are far fewer than the hundreds of millions the Deloitte report seems to indicate.
Overall the Deloitte report is a worthwhile read for a refresher on overall drivers and barriers of mHealth as long as a collection of data points about the wider mobile data services market. Read it here (PDF)