“Do you want apps with that?”

Remember that first time you got a smartphone or iPad® and you didn’t think you needed it until you realized just how amazing apps are?! I can’t imagine a life now without Google® Maps app to find the pub that’s “around here somewhere”; a life where I couldn’t check-in on Facebook letting my friends know I’m at the pub; or a life where I couldn’t use my phone to set my Sky+™ DVR box to record “Entourage” because I haven’t left the pub yet (can you see the pattern here?!).

Morgan Stanley predicts that by 2014 there will be more people accessing the Internet from mobile devices than from desktops, and I can already see that day coming. I have 3 younger brothers dotted around the globe and none of them owns a laptop or desktop anymore—they now connect with me via Skype™ on their mobile devices.

A fashion accessory to some, mobile devices are fast becoming important tools to many—a tool we can use to pay for things (the Simplee app helps you pay medical bills), get medical advice (HealthTap is an app that allows people to ask doctors medical questions and get quick answers), monitor blood pressure and monitor blood glucose, and keep track of diet and exercise. One app being trialled in the UK, called Patients Know Best, goes a step further and
allows patients to take control of their medical records and make video calls to physicians.

Speaking of physicians, a Manhattan Research survey conducted across Europe said that 25% of the time physicians spend online is on a mobile device such as a smartphone, PDA or tablet. Furthermore, a separate survey from EPG Online found that 95% of physicians who use mobile devices download apps to access medical information. It’s not surprising then that in the UK there is talk of general practitioners to be trained to “prescribe” apps to help patients manage their health conditions. Imagine walking out of your doctor’s office with a script for metformin and an iTunes® voucher for a blood glucose app!

What I am talking about is mobile health, abbreviated as mHealth, which is the practice of medical and public health supported by the use of mobile devices. mHealth was described by PricewaterhouseCoopers as a significant part of the revolution of healthcare worldwide. This is especially so in emerging markets where the revolution is being televised (a Gil-Scott Heron reference, in case you were wondering). Why do I say this? The emerging markets are adopting mHealth faster than are developed markets, because mHealth causes disruption. Developed markets have established healthcare systems most people are satisfied with—so satisfied that they are featured in opening ceremonies; and they don’t want disruption. However, it is this exact disruption that thrives in an emerging market as a new system and way of doing things that being developed.

The smartphone app market for mHealth will reach $1.3 billion this year—up from $718 million in 2011. That’s nearly double. Again, this year the number of mHealth application users will reach 247 million—also double the 2011 figure. The growth of mHealth can be largely attributed to the needs arising from patients and payers. Meanwhile, hindering growth is the attitudes of physicians. It is unsurprising that we are seeing resistance from them, with 42% worrying that mHealth makes patients too independent. I’ve recently seen this resistance first-hand viewing market research and it is an all too familiar story (remember the Internet and the rise of patient power?).

It’s not all bad though. Sixty-four percent of physicians and payers are excited about the future of mHealth. A lot of this excitement may be due to the innovation of apps coupled with devices. Recently, we have seen San Diego-based Sotera Wireless given FDA clearance for a WiFi-enabled ViSi® Mobile patient monitoring system that tracks patients’ vital signs no matter where they are around the hospital. What more does the future of mHealth hold? Will we all “wear” an implant that connects wirelessly with our smartphone which transmits data to a centralized system?

One thing for sure is that the healthcare market is evolving around smartphones. Are you evolving with the market?


About Havas Health

Havas Health (formerly known as Havas Worldwide Health) is the umbrella company for Havas Life (formerly known as Euro RSCG Life) and Health4Brands (H4B), two wholly owned global health and wellness communications networks. With more than 60 offices in 50 countries, Havas Health offers a unique approach to unified marketing within each of its agencies. This model allows clients to leverage complete media-neutral solutions—medical, strategy, promotion, managed markets, medical education, digital, DTP/DTC, social media, advertising, and PR—all under one P&L. Havas Health is a global subsidiary of Havas, a world leader in communications (Euronext Paris: HAV.PA).