There is no single business model for mobile health

By Brian Dolan

Money TreeDuring an educational session at CTIA Enterprise & Apps in San Francisco last week, Alex Brisbourne, president and COO of Kore Telematics, a wireless M2M company said that in 2008 health-related products made up about 1 percent of new business for his company. In 2010 he estimates healthcare will account for about 23 percent of new business, according to a report from Wireless Week. Companies like Kore Telematics have been working with medical device makers to embed wireless connectivity into devices to create feedback loops, remote monitoring mechanisms and more. Obviously business is good and getting better.

Other panelists that joined Brisbourne onstage included Eleanor Chye, executive director of AT&T's mHealth unit; Vivian Funkhouser, head of global healthcare solutions for Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions; Clint McClellan, senior director of business development for Qualcomm's Health & Life Sciences unit, and Jim Pursley, general manager of sales and marketing for GE Healthcare's Aging Services.

Wireless Week reported that each of the panelists believed that federal mandates for electronic medical records with favor mHealth, but that "several also said a business model needs to be developed" for mHealth. Hmm.

The idea that mobile health "needs a business model" has been bandied about at most of the mobile health-related conferences that have taken place over the past few months. While it's been stated before, it's clear that there is no one single (and will be no one single) business model for mobile health.

Funkhouser's team at Motorola, for example, which is largely outfitting healthcare workers with mobile devices and services is facing a very different world of business models than her co-panelists. Take AT&T and Eleanor Chye, the company's mHealth unit's director. Chye told attendees at CTIA her company views mHealth as an important opportunity for the wellbeing of its employees, retirees and dependents. Likewise, companies like KORE Telematics are embedding wireless chipsets into personal health devices like weight scales or blood pressure cuffs.

There's plenty of room for different business models that support each one of these companies mobile health strategies. There's plenty of room for each to pursue multiple business models. Let's drop the "mobile health lacks a business model" refrain. If you'd like to be very cynical, then at least be partially correct in stating that mobile health lacks "multiple business models."

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