Mobile health, or mHealth, is the newest craze in healthcare, bringing 21st century healthcare to your fingertips on your smartphone, tablet or computer. From using Apple watches and Fitbits to track your personal fitness journey, to using Amazon Alexa and Google Echo to deliver telehealth care to senior communities, the mHealth market is booming and there’s no end in sight. Why has mHealth rapidly grown and how does it play in the future of digital healthcare delivery? Let’s explore this trending topic in our monthly blog post below.
What is mHealth?
mHealth is an all-encompassing term to define the use of mobile phones and other wireless technology in medical care. mHealth covers a range of mobile health devices that are used for a variety of things including preventative health care services, disease surveillance, treatment support, epidemic outbreak tracking and chronic disease management. A tech savvy population already has access to controlling how they bank, eat, and transport themselves through mobile apps; therefore, why can’t we do the same with our healthcare? The mHealth market is determined to provide solutions to this gap and give consumers the ability to log info related to their health at the touch of a screen.
mHealth also leverages the 4Ps of healthcare delivery: personalized, predictive, participatory, and preventive. With the nearly ubiquitous presence of smartphones in every income-level, including low- and middle-income consumers, mHealth can deliver on the 4Ps by inspiring investors and consumers to utilize mobile technology to improve personal and population health efforts across the globe.
The Reach of the mHealth and Digital Medicine Markets
There’s only one word to describe the growth of this emerging market: exponential. The mHealth market initially was dominated by health and fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal or wearables like the Fitbit, but over the past few years remote consultation and monitoring has emerged as a new leader. Now, mobile apps can aid in the management of many diseases including asthma, cancer and diabetes. Thanks to the introduction of technologies such as EHRs, remote monitoring and other communications platforms in the healthcare system, these applications can now allow for patients to take an active and informed role in their healthcare decisions and treatment.
Top mHealth applications segments include:
- Lifestyle Management
- Nutrition & Diet
- Women’s Health
- Medication Adherence
- Healthcare Providers/Payers
- Disease Management
In addition to the potential impact for patients across the globe, mHealth is growing in the private sector at a phenomenal rate. With over 100,000 health apps already in the marketplace and a forecast of 1.7 billion downloads of mhealth apps on iOS and Android in 2017, the competition for personalized health experiences and outcomes is booming. According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc., the Global mHealth market is expected to reach $111.8 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 44.2%.
This infographic by Allied Market Research provides a full-scope analysis on the outlook of mHealth through 2020.
Newest mHealth Tech on the Market
Development of new mHealth technologies is skyrocketing and here are some of the newest technologies entering the market.
- Smart watches helping fight sleep apnea
- Smart patches helping measure and monitor baby temperatures
- Chest straps to monitor your heart
- Personalized fitness trackers
- Smart glasses for visually impaired
- Pregnancy wearable patch that measures contractions
- Wearables that help you fall asleep
- Wearable fitness tracker RINGS
- Wearable patches to monitor skin care needs
- Ear wearable to monitor vital signs
- Using a combination of telehealth, Fitbits and Fitbit-connected scales, clinicians can connect with patients and help oversee pediatric and adolescent weight loss management
- Development of mHealth games to help clinically treat patients with autism, dementia, and other conditions
Regulating a New Mobile Frontier
As with any new market or industry, there’s an active debate occurring about how to appropriately regulate mHealth devices and data. Private companies and regulators must find a balance between encouraging investment and competition but at the same time protecting consumer safety and privacy.
One of top regulatory concerns about mHealth involves securing and protecting the devices, and patients, from cybersecurity threats, attacks, and hacks. Hacked devices such as insulin pumps, pacemakers and defibrillators have been under industry scrutinization and speculation for years. Federal officials and regulators have been monitoring mHealth cybersecurity risks as early as 2012 when the Showtime TV Series Homeland killed off a fictional vice president character through a terrorist pacemaker hacking plot. After that, the FDA has been issuing warnings throughout several years and released its Final Guidance on mHealth Device Security in 2016.
Their concern is not unfounded as mHealth manufacturers and developers have released recalls and warnings for device vulnerabilities. In 2016, Johnson & Johnson warned users of its Animus OneTouch Ping insulin pump that the device could be hacked and reprogrammed to deliver a potentially fatal dose of insulin. And just recently, the USDA recalled roughly 500,000 implantable pacemakers due to software vulnerabilities that make them susceptible to cyber hacking.
As medical devices become increasingly interconnected to the Internet, medical networks and devices, the risk of cyber-attacks and threats increases dramatically. While new medical technologies may be exciting and push the boundaries of what we thought possible, the industry must make a commitment to protecting patient safety and privacy.
Has your organization incorporated mHealth into your delivery system? Are your providers encouraging patients to use mHealth technologies to take a more preventative, active approach to their treatment? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re looking to expand into mHealth, make sure your organization’s Internet and networking system are ready for the challenge. Contact us today to set up a network evaluation!