mHealth solutions have been discussed since the end of the 90s and initial projections of strong market uptake were very positive (estimating billions of dollars of activity).
Early movers in the mHealth arena (2000 to 2008) based business models on these early market estimates, but generally made use of existing PDAs and handheld computers to deliver services. But with a few exceptions projects didn’t progress beyond the trial stage and the mHealth market never really took off. Since then, quite a few of the early mHealth solution providers have discontinued their mHealth business altogether.
We are now witnessing a revitalization of the race to dominate the mHealth market and even more optimistic market projections are being reported. Why the sudden revitalization?
1. The launch of Apple’s app store in 2008 saw a quick and assertive dominance of the smartphone application market. Since then, a number of players have built similar app store solutions, attempting to aggressively pursue and dominate Apple’s leading position.
2. Early mHealth solution providers worked with limited device capabilities requiring them to seek hardware partners to further develop the mobile device. Many of these features are now standard on smartphones (e.g. sensors).
3. ‘Reach’ (the number of users in the mobile ‘audience’) was far more limited in the past than with today’s smartphones (estimated to be 1 billion in 2013).
4. The new smartphone market model offers global reach without requiring traditional distribution channels (e.g. via health insurance providers, hospitals).
5. Smartphone applications offer a better user experience (from discovering the app to downloading to billing, and to usage). Additionally, user-centric designs have simplified the technology challenges for one of the biggest target groups for mHealth users: seniors.
6. Security and confidentiality of information in mHealth applications was previously unregulated (severely limited uptake by health insurers, professionals, hospitals, users, etc). The renewed growth of the mobile market for health applications is now accompanied by a commensurate growth of regulatory guidelines and governing bodies (e.g. FDA mobile application regulations).
All indicators bode positive for the mHealth market and we look forward to the exciting opportunities, and solutions, that this renewed activity generate.
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