"Maybe it's about transforming the entire system." Thierry Zylberberg, Executive Vice President, Head of Orange Healthcare Division, France Telecom said during a presentation at the mHealth Summit in Dubai this week. "One arena where mHealth really works is the United States Army. It is working in this environment because it is a closed environment. It's one administration, so they could move it forward. Let me advocate that it is the whole system that needs to change."
Just who exactly will bring about change in healthcare was a matter of great debate at the summit here in the City of Gold, but Tokyo, Japan-based James Nakagawa of Mobile Healthcare Inc. had perhaps the most provocative comment of that panel discussion:
"This is Asia's chance to leapfrog the West," Nakagawa said. "In emerging markets the highest growth in service spending will be in healthcare. Healthcare products and service suppliers, however, are almost entirely Western. This is an opportunity. What if instead of replicating Western healthcare systems, emerging markets create their own tailored systems. The current healthcare systems have been shaped by the needs of the populations of the 500 million to 700 million predominantly Western people in the world. What impact will 2.5 billion Chinese, Indian and other Asian populations have on healthcare in the next 20 years?"
A healthcare system that is capable of caring for such large populations in areas with few healthcare professionals is one that almost certainly must leverage telemedicine technology effectively.
"Where I come from in Pakistan health is delivered as a luxury to 20 percent. When I first attended a telemedicine event 14 years ago, I learned very quickly that through this technology we would be able to deliver healthcare to all of our people," Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed, CEO eHealth Services and National Coordinator for eHealth, Ministry of Health, Pakistan. "Without this technology we will not be able to deliver it. From one developing country's perspective, 80 percent of our population just wants healthcare. We have seen how this technology has enabled us to teleconsult with 50,000 patients during one trial. Users want this."
Physicians want it too. Dr. Ruchi Dass, council member for healthcare, Gerson Lehrman Group, India has participated in more than 60 mHealth pilots, by her count, but she still couldn't find a business model worth presenting at the mHealth Summit in Dubai.
Instead, Dass presented a case study of a successful mobile agriculture service.
Well, there are 2.5 billion people, by Nakagawa's count, who should be motivated to start figuring that mobile healthcare business model out. The time for leapfrogging is now.
More from the Dubai event in the coming days.