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mHealth: Who’s Paying, How, and Why?

Posted May 19 2011 10:05pm

Posted on | May 19, 2011 |

What will drive health care’s immediate future? In 3 words – Complexity, Connectivity, Consumerism. To be more specific, consumer choice will foster creation and purchase of products that enhance connectivity with the goal of managing multi-generational complexity.(1)

We are a mobile society with a high disease burden and an inefficient, inconvenient and expensive delivery system. No wonder then that the market is moving in the direction of home-centered health management. Five years ago, when I predicted that this movement was “right around the corner”, even I wondered whether I was too far ahead of the curve. But in reality, the transformation is on pace and quite obvious to any who are willing to view it.

Mobile Health(mHealth)? Ford and Medtronic brought new meaning to the phrase this week with the announcement of  a prototype device that commandeers the  in-car communications system to track blood glucose activity while on the go.(2) Uber auto-analyst Phil Nalbone likes the idea. “This makes good use of widely available communications technology to safeguard patients and improve quality of care.”(3) Applications for pollen detection and air quality for asthma sufferers are also part of the program.

But what about more traditional mobile health apps. Where are we with them? Simple answer: “We’re soaring!” Latest growth curves certify that 1.4 billion global citizens will possess and use smartphones (with interactive Internet capacity) by 2015. Of these, 500 million (more than a third) will use mobile health apps.(4)

And purchasers will have a great deal of choice. There are already 17,000 mobile health apps available for download today. Who’s buying all these apps? Not just consumers. 47% of them are designed for use by health professionals. And many are downloadable for free or at a fraction of their development costs.(4)

Who’s paying for that? “With the growing sophistication level of mHealth applications, only 14% of the total market revenue in the next 5 years will come from application download revenue” says Engle Mikalajunaite, mobile health research analyst.(3) Translation: Others are paying – specifically clients in  healthcare services, health sensors and equipment, health advertising and pharmaceuticals.

Finally, let’s not forget home-based, but still portable consumer health electronics. Progress means smaller, cheaper, lighter, and faster. Just one example – a portable ECG machine, weighing in at 3.5 ounces which transmits reports automatically to your health team.(5) Add blood work and imaging.

Now add two more things.

1) A mobile health workforce, multi-tasking for the multi-generational family (think 1st stop – grandma post TIA, 2nd stop next door – check in on dad’s post-op wound, 3rd stop around the block – the new grandchild born pre-me and now doing well at 5 weeks). Continuity and geographically limited (think “neighborhood doctor and nurse”) with health care cost savings to boot.(6)

2) Lifespan planning: predictive, personalized, prospective health planning records that are comprehensive, forward-facing with online intelligence, coaching and support.(7) Oh yes – there’s an app for that (or certainly will be by 2015).

For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee.


1. Magee M. Powering Health Care Visions: Taking Advantage Of Complexity, Connectivity, And Consumerism. Intel Technology Journal. Volume 13. Issue 3, 2009.

2. Moore J. Here’s a driving effort to monitor your diabetes. Star-Tribune. May 18, 2011.

3. Stych E. Medtronic, Ford team up for in-car glucose monitor for diabetes. Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal. May 18, 2011.

4. Global Mobile Health Market Report. research2guidance. 2011.

5. Mearian L. Will IT change how doctors treat you in 2010? Computerworld, January 4, 2010

6. Landers SH. Why health care is going home. NEJM. 2010.

7. Syderman R, Yoediono Z. Proposal for a new health record to support personalized, predictive, preventive, and participatory medicine.Personalized Medicine. 2008, Vol. 5, No. 1, Pages 47-54.

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