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by Dominic Tyer
Study finds consumers moving faster than mobile health industry
Widespread adoption of mobile technology in healthcare, or mHealth, is now “inevitable” in developed and emerging markets, according to a new report.
However, it is emerging markets, such as China, Brazil and India will set the pace for adoption, according to consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The company's Emerging mHealth report found 59 per cent of emerging market patients surveyed used at least one mHealth application or service, compared with 35 per cent in the developed world.
"The adoption of mobile health in emerging markets versus developed markets is a paradox," said Christopher Wasden, global healthcare innovation leader, PwC. "In developed markets, mHealth is perceived as disrupting the status quo, whereas in emerging countries it is seen as creating a new market, full of opportunity and growth potential.
“In younger, developing economies, healthcare is less constrained by healthcare infrastructure and entrenched interests. Consumers are more likely to use mobile devices and mHealth applications, and more payers are willing to cover the cost of mHealth services.
The report includes findings of two surveys conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU): one of consumers and one of physicians, government and private payers in 10 markets. These comprised Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, India, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US.
• Roughly one-half of consumers predict that within the next three years, mHealth will improve the convenience (46 per cent), cost (52 per cent) and quality (48 per cent) of their healthcare
• Fifty-nine percent of emerging market patients use at least one mHealth application or service, compared with 35 percent in the developed world
• Nearly half of consumers said they expect mHealth will change the way they manage chronic conditions (48 per cent), their medication (48 per cent) and their overall health (49 per cent)
• Six in ten consumers (59 per cent) expect mHealth to change the way they seek information on health issues and 48 per cent expect it to change the way they communicate with physicians
• Among consumers who already are using mHealth services, 59 percent said they have replaced some visits to doctors or nurses
• The top three reasons consumers want to use mHealth is to have more convenient access to their doctor or healthcare provider (46 per cent), to reduce out-of-pocket healthcare costs (43 per cent) and to take greater control over their health (32 per cent)
• Sixty percent of consumers said they believe doctors are not as interested in mHealth as patients and technology companies are.
The study also found physicians and payers are more cautious than consumers in their outlook for mHealth. Specifically:
• Nearly two thirds (64 percent) of doctors and payers said that mHealth offers exciting possibilities but there are too few proven business models. In addition, the effectiveness of mHealth changing patient behaviour is evolving. For example, more than two-thirds of consumer respondents who have used mHealth wellness or fitness applications with manual data entry discontinued it after the first six months
• Only 27 per cent of physicians encourage patients to use mHealth applications to become more active in managing their health, and 13 per cent of physicians actually discourage it
• Forty-two percent of doctors surveyed worry that mHealth will make patients too independent
• More than one quarter – 27 per cent of doctors and 26 per cent of payers – cite an inherently conservative culture as a leading barrier to the adoption of mHealth.
"Despite demand and the obvious potential benefits of mHealth, rapid adoption is not yet occurring. The main barriers are not the technology but rather systemic to healthcare and inherent resistance to change," said Dr David Levy, global healthcare leader, PwC.
"Though many people think mobile health will be ancillary or bolted on to the healthcare industry, we look at it differently: mHealth is the future of healthcare, deeply integrated into delivery that will be better, faster, less expensive and far more customer-focused."