Report: Consumers will drive mHealth transformation; time to invest is now

Five years ago, it was too early for mobile healthcare technology to take root and ignite healthcare industry change, according to Samsung Electronics President and Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn, quoted for a new report published by The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Five years from now, he says, it will be too late.

The report, which surveyed 144 healthcare leaders working in public and private healthcare, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices, predicts that consumers will drive mHealth efforts forward. Interested parties, it maintains--from users to providers to payers to technology innovators--must start to move forward and fast.

"These technologies promise to improve outcomes and cut costs, while also improving the efficiency of the healthcare industry," states the report, which notes mHealth devices, apps and services may take root quickest in developing areas where people are underserved. "They can help bring quality care to people anywhere in the world and make it easier to deny deadly epidemics the chance to get a foothold."

Adoption in developed countries, such as the U.S., likely will be slower, given the necessity to change "entrenched" practices and the need for a culture shift in how healthcare is administered, according to the report. Institutional conservatism was cited as a primary hurdle by 44 percent of those polled.

"Mobile technologies offer a logical extension of the wellness programs many companies have already launched," the report states. "When the benefits emerge, insurance companies may change their reimbursement policies to encourage the use of these technologies."

The report comes on the heels of another prediction by a leading healthcare expert, Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego. Topol, as FierceMobileHealthcare ported in late January, predicts that today's medical practice and overall healthcare industry will undergo a radical transformation in the next five years as mobile devices become more mHealth-friendly. The prediction came in a viewpoint penned by Topol and Scripps colleagues Steven Steinhubl--who serves on FierceHealthIT's Editorial Advisory Board--and Ali Torkamani in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Another industry watcher expects the radical change to start even sooner; TechKnowledge Strategies analyst Mike Feibus says the transition shift of mHealth tech from the fitness realm to the medical and home patient monitoring environments will take root this year.

The Economist report says that mHealth's future success will "go to pioneers with the most innovative ideas, devices, services and business models."

For more information:
- read the report (.pdf)

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