mHealth: Is it a Market?

by | Nov 10, 2010

Been attending the mHealth Summit for the last 3 days and an over-arching theme has been:

mHealth is unlikely to ever become a market in its own right.

Backing up this claim have been the countless projects/products being presented at this event with very few having a model that is scalable across a broad population base. There is also the issue of a lack of clear, repeatable and sustainable business models for mHealth. None have been laid bare for before all to see and learn from in any of the sessions I attended (maybe we are just very early in the evolution/adoption cycle). Likely 90% of the mHealth technologies presented at this conference have been funded by grants that are unsustainable (most often for pilot studies by academic institutions) making one wonder: Where’s the money? Where’s the scale? Where’s the opportunity? Again, circling us back to the title of this post…

Is there really a mHealth market?

This is the wrong question to ask.

The question is not whether or not there is an mHealth market, the question is: How will mobile technologies and devices change care delivery models? Mobile technology is not going away anytime soon and is simply becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, both personal and work related. It is rapidly becoming ubiquitous. Likewise, as I have said many times before, health does not occur when you are sitting in front of a computer, it is mobile, it is with you, it is you.

But the adoption of anything by anyone has to meet a fundamental requirement; it needs to deliver value to the adoptee and that is what events such as this need to spend more time circling back to, and unfortunately this one did not. There is also the issue of how to successfully adopt a technology to fully leverage its capabilities, e.g., how will work-flows change within a hospital if all physicians are using touch-tablets and how do we optimize new work-flow models to improve efficiency and quality of care delivered? Again, not a topic that was addressed at this event to a level of detail that would prove useful although the keynote address this morning by Harvard University’s School of Public Health Dean Dr. Frenk was very insightful and briefly touched upon this topic.

Unfortunately, the content of this event, which was heavily weighted to NGO-type speakers, far too many talking heads and far too few practioners (be they clinicians or consumers), was the likely culprit. Don’t get me wrong, the event was not a complete waste of time as there have been some great panelists and a few interesting presentations, but they were a very small minority. Hopefully by next year we (and the organizers of this event) will have heeded the sage advice of Sangita Reddy, Executive Director of Operations for Indian healthcare powerhouse Apollo Hospitals Group, and not focus so much on the policies and politics of mHealth but the opportunities and operational aspects of mHealth to improve the quality of life for all people.

It is time to roll-up our sleeves and just get to work. But do not leave leadership at the door. As Dr. Frenk pointed out at the end of his talk, strong leadership is needed to insure that mHealth reaches its true potential as it will be a disruptor. And with disruption, opportunity blooms.


  1. Judith

    As a UK practitioner, it is reassuring to see that someone has hit the nail on the head. The market is led by researchers and academics, I am not sure that it is responding to the need or expectations of users.
    I am an mhealth, assistive techonology enthusiast who firmly believe that technology is a great enhancement tool in social and health care.
    However, my various projects to embed first and second generation of telecare equipment into the management of care has been difficult because it requires a complete reorganisation of workflow, new practices that need to be redesigned.

  2. George Van Antwerp

    John –

    Sorry I missed you there. I was there for about 1/2 the conference. I agree with your comments. An mHealth business case is much like some of the challenges which surround Health 2.0 technologies.

    Right now, mHealth is mostly government funded programs and grant funded programs trying to prove that it works. Much like social media, these new technologies need to be integrated into a preference-based marketing strategy that allows the consumer to get information in the way that works for them.




  1. ICMCC News Page » mHealth: Is it a Market? - [...] Article John Moore, Chilmark Research, 10 November 2010 [...]
  2. Round-up: Reactions to the mHealth Summit | mobihealthnews - [...] mHealth, is it a market? – John Moore – Chilmark Research: “It is time to roll-up our sleeves and…
  3. mHealth Summit 2010: A context check list - [...] John Moore, @ john_chilmark, Chilmark Research, mHealth: Is it a Market? [...]
  4. Chilmark Research: mHealth Adoption for Provider–Patient Engagement « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor - [...] is a potential market valued at more than “$1.1B by 2017″ (which is a nice update from John’s 2010…
  5. Is there too much hype in the mHealth app world? « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor - [...] followed a classic “Is mHealth a Market?, Is there too much hype?, If we can’t beat them let’s join…
  6. is there too much hype in the mHealth app world? (from 2012) — App Reviews - […] followed a classic “Is mHealth a Market?, Is there too much hype?, If we can’t beat them let’s join…
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