In the United States, mobile healthcare solutions are growing fast and are likely to lead to a change in the way both patients and healthcare professionals relate to healthcare. Patient follow-up, analysis and learning are just some of the possibilities offered by mobile services, which are both faster and cheaper.
If a patient is on his own and needs a regular check-up, does he need to travel for each routine medical visit? Today, perhaps, but probably not in five years’ time. The solution seems to be mobile healthcare which, according to a recent study on mobile health services carried out by Compass Intelligence, is growing rapidly in the United States. In 2012, these services account for 26.8% of total expenditure on eHealth and this spend is set to rise over the next five years. The greatest increase is expected to come from mobile applications, which will represent $18.2 billion in 2012 and should continue rising at about 7%, reaching $23.7 billion in 2016. In second place come remote services and equipment where expenditure, showing an annual increase of around 4.8%, is projected to total $14.9 bn in 2016. This is followed by software solutions, which will account for $9.5 bn worth of expenditure in 2016 compared with $8.9 bn today.
Mobile technologies can have various different applications in the healthcare world. Firstly, these services can help diagnose medical problems and can then be used for follow-up via ‘telemedicine’ - information exchange or sending prescriptions by text message. Secondly, these services allow patient data to be gathered, whether on people being treated by an individual healthcare professional or at national level, so enabling the creation of a patient database that can be accessed very easily, independently of the user’s location. A medical practitioner might for instance need to know about a patient’s previous medical history or any allergies before writing a prescription or may wish to use the data for a public health report. Last but not least, such mobile health solutions can help train healthcare professionals and educate patients. Mobile learning offers practitioners a means of keeping up to date professionally – e.g. on new medicines, while patients or the public will be able to access information, such as what to do in the event of an epidemic.
Four drivers of growth
Investment in these services has come about not only because they are very useful, but also because of cuts in state health budgets in the wake of the economic crisis. However, investment in mobile health is mainly driven by four factors. First, remote regions which today still have low levels of connectivity are starting to be better-connected. Second, greater access to technologies that are increasingly robust and more user-friendly. Third, the ever-growing use of smartphones. And finally, a growing need for remote solutions. These are four drivers which should increase the use of mobile solutions not only in the United States, but in emerging countries as well. However, there’s still one problem to solve. At the moment these services show insufficient ROI and so attract too little financing to encourage start-ups and innovative projects to get off the ground.