What is the difference between a professional and an amateur? Is it that the amateur has a tool for each purpose while the professional has a purpose for each tool? If that’s true we’re seeing a rapidly accelerating professionalization in eHealth and mHealth. We’re going from an era of monolithic systems to an era of an ecosystem of heavily niched applications held together by frameworks and platforms. I’m working with two niched mHealth applications. I’ll tell you more about them later. First, I’ll describe why mHealth is so exciting right now.
mHealth growth is fuelled by innovation and need
The worldwide market for mHealth will soon be bigger than that of antibiotics. The mHealth market is projected to reach USD 9 Billion this year (2014) and to continue to grow by 40% CAGR over the next six years.
There are two main factors that will fuel this explosive growth:
· On one hand there is the need for and the potential of mHealth to deliver substantial improvements in people’s lives and health.
· On the other hand there is the growth of enablers such as ubiquitous access to mobile phones, the growth of the Internet of Things and the emergence of enabling platforms.
mHealth meets a clear need
mHealth meets a need for cost-effective health improvement. There is already a growing body of evidence that various mHealth interventions in conjunction with traditional care could lead to improvements for people with Glaucoma, Diabetes, Cardio-Vascular Conditions etc. There is also evidence that mHealth can support people who want to improve their health by for instance losing weight or giving up smoking.
mHealth growth is enabled by innovation
There is also strong growth in terms of enabling technologies. The Internet of Things have brought us plenty of devices that allow advanced, in the home, connected health monitoring such as activity trackers, blood glucose meters and WiFi scales. There is a need for more than devices though, there is a need for platforms or stacks that enable all these devices to work together to enable us to gain actionable insights from our data. There is also a need for targeted apps that address specific needs and conditions.
Tech giants like Apple (Healthkit), Google (Fit) and Microsoft (Healthvault) are all vying to become leading framework/platform providers for mHealth apps, services and devices. Ironically, many of the best and most successful mHealth services so far have not been based on anything more than a daily text message. As the low hanging fruits are picked, there will be an increasing need for platforms that keep things together. As long as you have one monitoring device and one condition, it’ll be okay if there is no integration but as you start using more devices and have more health conditions you’ll want to have your data securely shared across services and applications.
mHealth triggers a transformation
Twenty years ago, all applications, including in eHealth, were monoliths. Communication between applications were not expected, instead new features were added as they were needed. Today, with the rapid rise of Open API:s applications are primarily built by integrating various services to form new ones. We used to call such apps Mashups. Today, we simply call them apps.
Where will a rapidly growing market combined with clear needs and benefits enabled by an explosive growth in devices and the emergence of mHealth application frameworks lead us? It leads us to the possibility of creating highly focused applications that address only one or a few needs while still keeping all the benefits of seamlessly shared data.
CareOptimizer and Champ
In the last year, I have worked with two such focused applications: CareOptimizer and Champ. Both these applications are based on ideas and innovation that go back over ten years but with limited commercial success. Today, the time might be ripe for these applications to become successful. Being narrowed and focused is no longer a problem when you are part of an eco-system of complementary applications.
Fredrik Krig and Mirel Bikic, both developers, demonstrate how Champ can be used interactively between a Physiotherapist and a Patient.
Both applications were developed with Microsoft Azure as a backend and a Windows 8.1 Surface as a client device. CareOptimizer is focused on helping care providers optimize their staffing and maximize the time spent with the care receivers. Champ is focused on helping Physiotherapists understand their patients’ pain and what’s causing it.
We are delivering these new tools to professionals and individuals. Early adopters in Healtcare are happily receiving these improvements. However, some organizations have processes and cultures that makes it much easier to purchase big monoliths than light-weight focused applications that are part of a larger eco-system. I am convinced that these organizations will adapt to be able to provide the benefits of this new landscape to their stakeholders.