“I am not going to dwell on the technology,” Cambridge Consultants‘ Paul Williamson promised during his presentation at the Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit in London this week. “The technology is not a true barrier since [the technology] is relatively low-cost already.”
Williamson then presented what he called an admittedly “simplistic” analysis of what could and should motivate various groups to enable wireless health services. In effect, Williamson asked the opposite question to the one we often hear, which is: Who Pays? Williamson asked, Who gets paid? And once that’s determined, Williamson wondered why the others would want to bother with wireless health at all.
Medical Device Makers
A medical device maker, for example, one that manufacturers blood glucose meters, must increase its bill of materials to add wireless connectivity to their device, Williamson said. Their goal, however, is to increase their users’ loyalty to their device. While the device makers may or may not be contributing additional content for a mobile application that might interface with the medical device, the reason for adding connectivity to a personal medical device is clear for this group, Williamson said.
Healthcare Service Providers
Of course, for healthcare service providers, wireless health looks to offer only a relatively small opportunity for revenue generation, according to Williamson. However, if the care provider can integrate wireless health solutions into electronic medical records (EMRs) and show real efficacy that demonstrates “real results” and “real costs,” the care provider may be able to attain reimbursement from payers, he said. The key there, however, is demonstrating that longterm value.
What about wireless carriers? Data volume for wireless health services is relatively low, Williamson noted. The corresponding increase in data revenue then is also rather low. If the costs, burden and returns are low, carriers won’t be motivated to offer wireless health services because of the direct returns alone. However, might they offer them anyway? Williamson thinks so.
Mobile Phone Makers
The silicon vendors may be willing to embed wireless health sensors in phones free of charge in order to win the deal to sell the silicon to phone makers. The handset maker then may end up investing no money to ensure its phones are ready for wireless health — but they have invested so little in this emerging industry that they are likely not to gain anything either.
“So why bother?” Williamson asked. Each of these groups should bother and probably will “because mobile health in this environment is inevitable,” he said. “There is a need for these services.”
For wireless carriers, wireless health is primarily another way to distinguish their service offerings and compete on price and value, Williamson said. What distinguishes carriers from each other today?
“Valued experiences to the customer,” Williamson said. “Carriers need to conduct more trials and more research and development in order to get to larger rollouts and scale,” he said. The recent talk of trials being of limited interest should be ignored, and carriers should focus on opportunities that really can win commercially — like care giver support and personal disease management, Williamson suggested.
Handset makers have a tougher road, according to Williamson. The value of handsets is increasingly defined by the types of applications that the phone is capable of running. In order to engage the mobile health sector, handset makers need to enrich their handsets with technology that allows them to connect with wireless health sensors, he said.
“I think mobile healthcare is going to be a must have in future handsets,” Williamson said.