mHealth Market

Global Industry Analysis (2018 – 2021) – Growth Trends and Market Forecast (2022 – 2026)

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mHealth Can Enable New Models of Healthcare Monitoring, and Delivery

Mobile health (mHealth) is the use of portable devices such as smartphones, and tablets for the provision of health, or medical services. Mobile applications play an important role in mHealth as they allow users to access information quickly at the touch of a finger. mHealth consists of consumer technologies that enable consumers to capture their own health data without a clinician’s assistance, or interpretation. Continuously challenged by rising expectations, expanding ageing populations, and inadequate declining workforce, healthcare systems around the world have been tackling the rising demand, and expectations. Mobile communication technologies are, however, opening up new possibilities for improving access, freeing time for clinicians to spend on care rather than administration, and engaging people in monitoring their own health, and wellness.

Potential applications range from SMS {and interactive voice response (IVR)} medication reminders based on existing mobile device capabilities to advanced remote monitoring services that use connected mobile devices to track patients’ vital signs. These services are defined broadly, encompassing diagnosis, and management of conditions, and support for general health, wellbeing, and fitness. Services tend to be provided in one of the three ways - (1) software apps that allow users to enter, and receive information, (2) pre-existing hardware (e.g., microphones, and cameras) installed on mobile devices, and (3) external devices attached to mobile devices that receive/generate information of interest (e.g., an attachment allowing a smartphone to read an electrocardiogram). In 2017, nearly 325 million wearable devices, and approximately 325,000 mHealth apps were available worldwide.

Creating a Convenient Healthcare System for All

To realise the complete potential of mHealth, supportive healthcare policies are required. Effective use of mobile health would enable a shift from a curative healthcare model to the one (prevention-based, and patient-focused) in which the patient is an active partner in care, consenting to the risks of treatment, making choices, and increasingly taking responsibility of their own health. Many low- and middle-income countries are facing challenges when it comes providing timely, and effective healthcare due to economic limitations, geographic barriers, workforce shortages, and governance issues. On the other side, in certain developing African countries such as Zimbabwe, there is just one doctor per 10,000 people. Such and similar alarming scenarios present themselves in many other developing countries as well, as the key challenge to healthcare delivery. It may therefore appear intuitive to exploit the growing worldwide popularity of cell phones - and other such personal electronic devices - to create a more convenient healthcare system for all. In May 2018, the 71st World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on mHealth, and the use of appropriate digital technologies for public health. This resolution is supposed to pave the way for the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish a global digital health strategy.

Understanding Facts – mHealth is Not a Substitute for a Physician

Patient confidentiality risks, variable IT literacy, and limitations to internet access remain the predominant barriers to reap the complete benefits of mHealth technologies. The concerns around app safety, efficacy, and user privacy also continue to be the technical barriers to widespread adoption. Moreover, over-reliance on these mobile health apps may have serious implications, which must be taken into consideration by the existing users. A sizeable patient population currently consider mHealth technology as a fully dependable source. There are many who have been choosing to use these apps in their daily lives instead of seeking professional medical help even in cases of emergency. As incorrect diagnoses can be turn into dangerous implications, especially the fact that receiving an incorrect diagnosis or not getting one at all could hinder proper treatment, and possibly endanger a patient’s life as well, the fact that mHealth is not supposed to be a replacement for a physician, or a healthcare provider, must be understood, and followed.

mHealth as a Health Systems Strengthening Tool

According to Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the proliferation of cell phones across the globe, even in locales without basic healthcare infrastructure, is spurring the growth of mHealth, especially in developing, and underdeveloped countries. With rising ubiquity, and affordability of mobile technologies, the global mHealth market is most likely to prosper over the near future. The development of wireless internet technology, and its growing accessibility, and high-speed mobile coverage further create a strong ground for the mHealth market to firm up across a multitude of platforms, and locations.

Meanwhile, a recent study by the team of University College London scientists has made some interesting revelations to indicate the potential use of mobile phones in swab testing for COVID-19. The study suggests that swabbing people’s mobile phones is as accurate as taking their lateral flow test for COVID-19. While it would completely eliminate the need for uncomfortable nasal swabs, the test is claimed to deliver the diagnosis as accurate as 81-100% of the time. This study involving faster, and accurate test results is expected to be an important milestone of mHealth amid the viral outbreak.

Regulations Contributing to mHealth Expansion

While healthcare policies, and regulations are often cited as the key barriers to bringing mobile health services to the market, at the same time, there are policies allowing mHealth to become a driver for the change.

  • Pakistan has appointed a national coordinator for eHealth, and has recently published an eHealth action plan that includes the use of telemedicine services
  • As part of a wider strategy for ubiquitous health, South Korea has recently introduced new legislation to remove barriers on remote consultations in healthcare
  • In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote collaboration, and ultimately to improve the efficiency of regulatory processes applicable to both broadband-, and wireless-enabled medical devices
  • The European Union has supported a programme of technology, and market development for personal health systems, which includes mHealth solutions, and has established large-scale pilots to demonstrate the benefits of these systems

Industry Standards

Clinical Standards - The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a document, entitled ‘Guidelines for Managing and Securing Mobile Devices in the Enterprise’, discussing many of the topics that should be addressed while planning the deployment of mobile devices in a clinical environment

  1. Technical Standards – The standardization of communication protocols, device interfaces, and operating systems is an important aspect of mHealth. These standards make it possible for peripherals to communicate with devices, and for devices to communicate with one another
  2. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) process-related standards - They have pushed the 802.11 and 802.15 standards, both of which relate to the wireless transmission of data, and are implemented extensively in wireless routers, access points, and mobile devices
  3. Continua Alliance - An important standards body in the healthcare technology world, working with manufacturers, clinicians, and other standards groups to promote adoption of connected devices in the world of healthcare
  4. Wi-Fi Alliance - Provides certification to devices that have implemented the 802.11 series of IEEE standards
  5. ZigBee – The implementation of the 802 series of IEEE standards

Besides, American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA), American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Code of Ethics, and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) guidelines and certifications also represent some of the significant authoritative bodies related to the mHealth space. For customers willing to take advantage of mHealth apps, Online Review Sites Amazon, CNet, Consumer Reports, and iMedicalApps assist in choosing the appropriate applications.

Industry Organisations, and Events

ATA mHealth SIG - the American Telemedicine Association has a special interest group (SIG) that focuses on the issues related to mHealth. EAI MobiHealth Conference Series has the most extensive list of mHealth-related industry events with national, and international conferences listed in their calendar.

Prominent mHealth Companies in Global Market

Aparito, Athenahealth, emocha Mobile Health, hearX Group, ihealth Labs, LifeWIRE, m-Health Solutions, my mhealth, MIMOSA Diagnostics, Outcomes4Me, and Warp United are some of the most prominent players competing in the global mHealth market landscape.

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