Monday, June 28, 2010

m-health: a new application of cell phones to help improve care and save money

Until recently, the only connection between cell phones and health was the fear they might cause cancer or traffic accidents.  Now, cellular operators are trying to become providers of wireless-health-care products and services.

The market, known as mobile or m-health, spans everything from text messaging services to remind people to take medications to implants that monitor heart patients. There are even pills with edible computer chips; the chips send signals to a skin patch, which in turn transmits data to a doctor's cell phone or computer. The information helps doctors track when patients take their medicines and whether there are adverse reactions.

Bloomberg Businessweek writer Kerry Capell covers this trend in “Remote Health Care: Body Parts Make Phone Calls.”  He writes that cellular carriers facing saturated markets are jumping into the revolution of mobile technology that identifies and acts on medical problems

Telecom operators view m-health as one of three future revenue streams, along with content and advertising.

The cell-phone providers are joining a crowded field. Medical equipment giants such as GE Healthcare, Philips, and Siemens, chipmakers such as Intel, and countless startups are developing remote monitoring devices, wearable sensors, and health-related mobile-phone applications as rising costs force a shift in patient care from the hospital to the home.

By monitoring patients at home using mobile technology, doctors can spot irregular heart rhythms and adjust treatment, potentially avoiding rehospitalization.

Before the m-health market can take off, however, hospitals, insurers, and doctors need to work out the business model. To persuade insurance companies or government health systems to cover mobile health costs, hospitals and telcos need to collect more clinical evidence showing that m-health can improve care and save money.

Telecom providers believe one way to build the business is to team up with medical equipment makers.  That's why we at STINSON Brand Innovation are thinking about how we might accelerate the adoption of this application of technology.

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