Deloitte: Mobile views healthcare as biggest opportunity

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 21, 2012        

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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.

Deloitte Survey Data

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)

  • Evan Freedman

    From Deloitte’s report: “Recent analyst studies suggest that for wireless carriers, voice revenues have declined 7 percent over the last 4 years, while data revenue has soared 132 percent and now accounts for 35 percent of the total revenue for the wireless industry” (p. 12).

    Perhaps mobile industry execs see mHealth as the next great opportunity because of the unique characteristics of this vertical, that is, the need for biometric sensors and remote patient monitoring devices to constantly (or quite frequently) transmit data. This reliable source of constant data usage certainly plays into the mobile industry’s shift towards data as the main revenue generator.

    What do you think: is mHealth unique in its data needs compared to other verticals? The report does mention Smart Grid technology and the associated Machine-to-Machine communication as another promising vertical, both of which are data intensive and likely require constant communication. Is the attractiveness of mHealth then more an issue of who would be paying for the data (i.e. the consumers vs. the service providers)?

  • Suzie

    Until hospitals are paid to keep people well, instead of keeping people sick and in their hospital, there is not an incentive for them to use mobile health apps with their patients.  And if insurance doesn’t pay for the app use, there is no incentive for patients to use them either.