Mobile health companies try to follow the money without alienating docs

With mobile healthcare conferences becoming all the rage, we can't be everywhere. Fortunately, had someone at the Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit 2010 in London to follow the people who were, frankly, following the money.

"The medical device makers own the mhealth market," Thierry Zylberberg, head of the Orange Healthcare Division of France Telecom, said in a keynote speech. Which explains why Orange and so many other telecommunications companies are partnering with device manufacturers.

But there are two distinct business models in mobile healthcare: business-to-business and business-to-consumer. According to, B2B works well in a state-funded health system, though we see plenty of that kind of activity in the U.S. targeting private payers and large employers, à la the AT&T-WellDoc partnership we report on elsewhere in today's issue. The B2C market is more for wellness, and the patient is expected to pay the tab.

Though new, smart, wireless medical devices can collect and output all sorts of helpful new data, patients and health professionals alike run the risk of being overwhelmed with information, noted Dr. Henry Potts of the Centre for Health Informatics at University College London. "[Providers] have too little manpower to look at existing data," Potts reportedly said. "Connecting patients to healthcare professionals could undermine the patient becoming self-sufficient."

Still, Potts said physicians would like "new ways" of interacting with patients, such as what describes as "facilitating the individual supply-chain management of the doctor and the patient." Another speaker, Dr. Mike Stein, chief medical officer of British clinical guidelines publisher Map of Medicine, said that mobile tools can help filter information exchange between physicians and patients.

And others pointed out that many developing parts of the world are far ahead of the West in terms of embracing mobile healthcare, even in terms of revenue per user, a key metric for telecommunications companies.

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