A PricewaterhouseCoopers report this year estimated that mobile health technology could help save developed countries $400 billion by 2017. About half of American adults have some kind of chronic condition, including obesity, arthritis, or diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wireless devices could let more of their health care happen at home. To proponents of mobile health, like Don Jones, Qualcomm Life’s head of global marketing and strategy, this means that unnecessary visits to clinics and emergency rooms will plummet, people will refine their use of medicine, and doctors and nurses will have more time to focus on their neediest patients.
Patients want convenience and control. Payers are interested in mHealth’s value for money. Yet doctors are resistant — 64% worry that mHealth makes patients too independent. 59% of those who use mobile Health (mHealth) already say it has replaced visits to doctors or nurses.
According to the PwC and GSMA report, Touching lives through mobile health: Assessment of the global market opportunity, global mHealth revenues will increase nearly six-fold by 2017, with monitoring services and applications representing 65% of the market. Most of the market share will be in Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions with 30% of share each, followed by North America with 28%. Latin America and Africa are expected to have smaller markets with estimated shares of 7% and 5% respectively.
Chronic disease management and post acute care monitoring services will comprise a large proportion of the opportunity with nearly US$10.7 billion in revenue in 2017, with a majority of revenues contributed by the former. Independent ageing solutions also offer a large opportunity with potential revenue of US$4.3 billion in 2017.
Key opportunities in chronic disease management will also vary across countries dependent on the prevalence of various diseases. For instance, monitoring of patients with metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes is expected to comprise about 39% of revenues in chronic disease management in the US. This is followed by approximately 23% in Germany, 20% in Brazil, and 12% and 10% in Japan and China respectively. Similarly, monitoring patients with cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure is expected to contribute about 47% to chronic disease management revenues in the US and about 79% in China.
Diagnostic services are expected to comprise nearly 15% of the mHealth market with US$3.4 billion in revenues in 2017.
A majority of the revenues from diagnostic services are expected to come from callcentre and mobile telemedicine solutions with approximately US$ 1.7 billion and US$ 1.6 billion in revenue in 2017.
Treatment will be the third largest revenue opportunity with around 10% of the total mHealth market share. Wellness and prevention will comprise approximately 3% and 1% respectively of the total mHealth market.
The PwC and GSMA report also predicts that mobile operators are expected to be the key beneficiaries of the expected growth in the mHealth market and command about 50% share of the overall market, corresponding to US$ 11.5 billion, in 2017. This is closely followed by device vendors (29%), content/application players (11%) and healthcare providers (10%) This is mainly due to the high
share of revenue mobile operators receive from monitoring services as they are increasingly acting as system integrators to bring total remote patient monitoring systems to the market. In the diagnostic market, existing healthcare providers will garner most of the revenues.
Qualcomm Life, launched two years ago as a division of the San Diego–based telecommunications giant Qualcomm, is building software and protocols that could bring some order to the chaos of health data. Its first product, called the 2Net Platform, is a system for getting wireless data off those devices and onto the Internet servers of clients, like health device makers or hospitals. Devices that currently work with the 2Net hub include a thermometer, a blood-pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter, and a blood-glucose monitor.
Asthmapolis has a GPS sensor for inhalers that uses a Bluetooth radio so people with asthma can track where and when they needed help breathing. CleverCap attaches to pill bottles, flashes and beeps when it’s time to take medication, and then, using Wi-Fi and cellular networks, reports to the Internet whether the pills were taken. The Garmin heart-rate monitor straps across the chest and digitally communicates beeps and blips with yet another wireless protocol, called ANT-plus.
By 2020 there will be 25 billion wireless devices transmitting data, estimates the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. To accelerate things in health care, a separate Qualcomm Life Fund has invested widely in startups such as Noom, publisher of an app for people trying to lose weight, and Telcare, which makes a system that diabetics can use to monitor their glucose levels.
This year Qualcomm Life paid an undisclosed amount to acquire Healthy Circles, a “software-as-a-service” platform that uses social-networking ideas to coördinate health care. Essentially, patients send their self-gathered data to a Web portal that also stores their medical records, information on their current medications, and up-to-the-minute lab reports. This allows nurses, doctors, and pharmacists to literally stay on the same page as the patients themselves, while obeying federal rules on data privacy.