Don't overlook IBM's steady presence in mHealth

Given the increasing wave of mHealth-related IBM headlines in the past few months, some could have the impression IBM is just now getting its foot in the door where mobile healthcare in concerned.

But while Apple, Google and BlackBerry have been heralded as major players to drive mHealth technology ahead, it would be remiss, and even irresponsible, to not put IBM on the list--and maybe even someday soon at the top. 

Many of those other tech giants I just mentioned have been getting major attention from media outlets. 

Apple has been creating huge headlines for the past six to eight months, including over its HealthKit and ResearchKit platforms, and of course Watch. As one report noted last September, the iPhone innovator is expected to have a dramatic impact on healthcare and mHealth unlike few others--its financial impact is projected to be in the billions. 

So the assumption Apple could ultimately be "the" leader in mHealth isn't far fetched.

Neither is the view that Google could emerge as the top dog, which I suggested last fall based on Google's wearable advancements with Glass, and, more importantly, the fact that Google has data access like very few other tech titans.

I also surmised how, despite the fact that Apple and Google seemed to be monopolizing mHealth, we shouldn't count out BlackBerry and its impending mHealth strategy. 

However, IBM has been cranking out mobile health tools and forging new partnerships very steadily. One of its latest announcements, a program to help elderly Japanese seniors better manage healthcare, is directly tied to a collaboration with Apple forged last July. At that time, IBM and Apple announced they would be creating apps and tools for healthcare, as well as a slew of other vertical industries, such as manufacturing.

Looking back a few years, in August 2010, IBM teamed up with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) on a SmartRoom solution that gave nurses information regarding a patient's problems, vital signs, test results, and medications right in the room, without hunting for a chart or tracking down a physician.

Nearly a year later--in June 2011--IBM released a report on the burgeoning mHealth market and the then small set of users interested in using mHealth technology for proactive healthcare needs. IBM clearly was doing its own substantive research on the market, on potential technologies and what users may want and expect down the road.

Neither Google nor Apple were doing anything tied to mHealth five years ago, at least market-wise. It's likely Glass and other initiatives were in development, but no products were hitting the shelves. 

But while they were in R&D, IBM was actually putting products into use--placing mHealth tools in the hands of healthcare providers. That's been continuing on a steady basis and looks to continue well into the future. 

IBM may just be the top mHealth player when dust starts to settle. Due to its willingness for collaboration, however, it likely won't have too much of a problem sharing top billing with other players in the industry. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)