12:51 PM

Mobile Health Apps To Triple By 2012

Telecom and technology vendors have a significant opportunity in the thriving mHealth market, concludes Pyramid Research study.

15 Healthy Mobile Apps
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Slideshow: 15 Healthy Mobile Apps
According to a report from Pyramid Research, more than 200 million mobile healthcare (mHealth) applications are in use today, and that number is expected to increase threefold by 2012.

While the explosion of mHealth apps will spur innovation in healthcare delivery, the report -- Health Check: Key Players in Mobile Healthcare -- said there will be barriers to adoption at health delivery organizations, mainly centered around expenses associated with developing the services; educating healthcare providers, patients, and payers about them; and justifying those costs for reimbursement purposes.

However, mHealth gives telecommunications and technology vendors a potential customer base that's large, global, and willing to spend money.

"Healthcare solutions that are delivered via mobile technology are creating a new frontier of innovation that is driving down costs, increasing access, and improving quality of care," Denise Culver, analyst and author of the report, said in a statement.

Culver also said mHealth opens up many opportunities for mobile network operators (MNOs) like AT&T, BT, Orange, and Telefonica; original equipment manufacturers including Apple, Research In Motion, and Ericsson; hardware and software vendors, such as Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, and Google; and a new breed of device and application providers that specialize solely on mHealth, including CardioNet, Epocrates, and NowPos.

The report, published in December, made several key conclusions about the emerging mHealth market. These include:

-- About 70% of people worldwide are interested in having access to at least one mHealth application, and they're willing to pay for it.

-- Technology and telecommunications providers are well positioned for developing, extending, and marketing mHealth applications. Many of these players already have established relationships with healthcare providers and payers, and possess technology capabilities and consumer-brand assets that healthcare players lack. Many already understand the distribution and market requirements of consumer-oriented devices.

-- The value proposition of mHealth is strong, giving technology and telecommunications providers a clear role in addressing healthcare industry needs. It provides cost-efficient healthcare delivery; improves patient outcomes; and increases access by allowing patients to take ownership of the data and greater responsibility for their own health, while breaking down barriers of time and location.

-- Physicians and providers need to address several challenges for mHealth to become as widespread as possible. Traditionally, healthcare providers are reluctant to change technologies because of the required time, cost, and process alterations. Furthermore, the healthcare industry as a whole is a slow adopter of technology, and regulatory issues often slow the process of change. Additionally, the security of mobile technology remains an issue, especially when combined with the sensitivity of private healthcare information.

"MNOs can leverage mHealth applications as part of an enterprise vertical-differentiation strategy," Culver said. "They have the chance to create mHealth solutions that combine voice, messaging, data, security, and other current offerings, which will increase customer loyalty and create value-added services."

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