From 200 million internet users in 2013 to over 500 million internet users by 2017 — including 314 million mobile internet users — the growth story of mobile internet in India is on the upsurge. A report by IAMAI and KPMG projected that India will reach 236 million mobile internet users by 2016, and 314 million by 2017.
So, while becoming the third largest country of smartphone users of the world, it is clearly assumed that adoption of mobile technology in healthcare is at a very promising stage. But according to a new global study conducted for PwC Global Healthcare by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), states that mobile healthcare or mHealth, which is now being viewed as inevitable in both developed and emerging markets around the world, will likely be led by emerging markets and lag consumer demand.
Study appeared as’ Emerging mHealth: paths for growth,’ also says that consumers have high expectations for mHealth, particularly in developing economies where mobile cellular subscriptions is ubiquitous. In emerging markets, consumers perceive mHealth as a way to increase access to healthcare while patients in developed markets see it as a way to improve the convenience, cost and quality of healthcare.
“We have a great opportunity in M2M and the reason I say that, is because India is going to be third largest country of user of smart phones, that’s where the mHealth comes in, and mobile health coupled with clinical decision support system like what we provide is really going to change the patient outcome.” believes Shireesh Sahai, CEO ,Wolters Kluwer
Adding further he said, “The product like up-to-date, has been into existence for last 20 years and more then 8, 50,000 doctors are using it today. Sharing with you one of our research, in one of the hospital in Singapore where they are using this tool, the doctors change the decision and diagnosis around 37% of time. Just imagine the power, this tool has. In one of the other study with Harvard we come to know that, by using this tools doctors have saved 11,000 more lives then what they are saving before.”
Same believes, the VP, Smart Rx, Ramaa Sundara Raj, “Wearables that can partner up with an app to deliver real-time data on any condition monitoring and management and helps intervention at the right time is really amazing.
According to PwC, if the promise of mHealth is realized by consumers, the impact on healthcare delivery could be significant and fundamentally alter traditional relationships within the healthcare industry. The use of mHealth and speed of adoption will be determined in each country by stakeholders’ response to mHealth as a disruptive innovation to overcome structural impediments and align interests around patients’ needs and expectations.
“Assessment of m-health should include awareness of practical issues, such as sustainability. Real-world challenges greatly influence the ability of programs to survive and grow.45 Issues include participating organizations, technical capacity, and financing. The WHO and other organizations should develop guidance on best m-health practices and support countries’ implementation efforts” says Dr Ruchi Dass, Founder and CEO, HealthCursor. “Recently, PMNCH ICT Readiness committee came up with a planning workshop where guidance is provided on the different steps that are required to understand the feasibility of using ICTs.
Every country has different needs and readiness levels for the use of ICTs. Thus, the conveners of the MSD (multi-stakeholder dialogue) on ICTs will need to assess how they can use the guidance, best practices and evidence well in a specific situation”.
Nevertheless, while market is expecting a huge makeover with the introduction of the M2M and other wearable gadgets, still experts are witnessing few challenges in the adoption among the consumers. “They have been successful in the past but it will become more strategic and result in faster and more successful implementations going forward. In the past, traditional implementation cycles were slower and technology usage by patients was patchy. Today adoption of cloud as a viable model will result in faster and more integrated systems. The consumer needs around mobile based services will make technology implementations more successful” said Raj, Director & VP Strategy, SmartRx
According to PwC, innovators seeking opportunities in mHealth, including telecommunications and technology companies, must work to overcome the barriers slowing widespread adoption of mHealth. They can help to alleviate healthcare’s resistance to change by focusing less on the technology and more on effective, customer-focused solutions that add value for health organizations and patient quality of life.
Adding to the point Dr Dass says, “One of the biggest challenges facing societies worldwide is how to make high-quality healthcare affordable and accessible for all. Governments, individuals and private insurers worldwide are urgently seeking more cost-effective ways of preventing and treating chronic diseases and other debilitating conditions. The widespread use of mobile connectivity in healthcare could significantly cut costs, increase the reach and accessibility of healthcare services and reduce the impact of illness on people’s lives”.
In its analysis, PwC identifies strategic considerations for companies active in the mHealth arena.
“Today, people talk about mobile and mobility as it was a new solution. 15 years ago if someone says, internet is a new solution, then off course it is new. People use ‘ I’ and ‘e’ before their business and says we are into internet business but nobody can today say that they are in mobile health business because, mobile is just a channel to deliver the healthcare, like social media. In the ecosystem of healthcare, planners always look for the community they have been serving. It is just that today those tools are available in the form of technology and we are getting better. So, we always had been analyzing our business in healthcare, we always being trying to get closer to the customers who are patient. So, do I think it will get better, surely it will get better with technology tools, but we are not going to do something new or different what we are doing previously? It will just be different way of doing things” added Tirupathi Karthik, CEO, Napier.
Box Item (as stated by the study for PwC)
In the report, the EIU examines the current state and potential of mHealth (defined as the provision of healthcare or health-related information through the use of mobile devices) and the barriers to adoption and opportunities for companies seeking growth in the mHealth market. The report includes findings of two surveys conducted by the EIU: one of consumers and one of physicians and government and private payers in 10 markets, including Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, India, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US.
The consumer survey found:
- Roughly one-half of consumers predict that within the next three years, mHealth will improve the convenience (46 percent), cost (52 percent) and quality (48 percent) of their healthcare.
- Fifty-nine percent of emerging market patients use at least one mHealth application or service, compared with 35 percent in the developed world. Nearly half of consumers said they expect mHealth will change the way they manage chronic conditions (48 percent), their medication (48 percent) and their overall health (49 percent). Six in ten consumers (59 percent) expect mHealth to change the way they seek information on health issues and 48 percent expect it to change the way they communicate with physicians.
- Among consumers who already are using mHealth services, 59 percent said they have replaced some visits to doctors or nurses.
- The top three reasons consumers want to use mHealth is to have more convenient access to their doctor or healthcare provider (46 percent), to reduce out-of-pocket healthcare costs (43 percent) and to take greater control over their health (32 percent).
- Sixty percent of consumers said they believe doctors are not as interested in mHealth as patients and technology companies are.
The study found that physicians and payers are more cautious than consumers in their outlook for mHealth. Specifically:
- Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of doctors and payers said that mHealth offers exciting possibilities but there are too few proven business models. In addition, the effectiveness of mHealth changing patient behaviour is evolving. For example, more than two-thirds of consumer respondents who have used mHealth wellness or fitness applications with manual data entry discontinued it after the first six months.
- Only 27 percent of physicians encourage patients to use mHealth applications to become more active in managing their health, and 13 percent of physicians actually discourage it.
- Forty-two percent of doctors surveyed worry that mHealth will make patients too independent. • Payers appear to be far more supportive of mHealth than physicians. Forty percent of payers compared to 25 percent of physicians encourage patients to let doctors monitor their health and activities using mHealth services and devices.
- Payers and providers both cited multiple barriers to the adoption of mHealth, notably the complexity and scope of change associated with mHealth. Public sector doctors and payers cited lack of existing technology as the biggest barrier to greater use of mHealth adoption. Sixty-three percent of physicians in the private sector versus only 40 percent in the public sector have access to wireless connectivity at work.
- Forty-five percent of doctors and payers said that the application of inappropriate regulations originally developed for earlier technologies is slowing the adoption of mHealth.
- More than one quarter – 27 percent of doctors and 26 percent of payers – cite an inherently conservative culture as a leading barrier to the adoption of mHealth.