I’ve been digging into the mHealth world for a number of years. As I look at the mHealth marketplace, I see it working in a number of interesting directions. Each has its own promise and there’s some overlapping technologies which I think often confuses the market. However, I think that we can break the mHealth market into the following 3 areas:
Consumer mHealth – This area of mHealth is dominated by the various fitness trackers, but also is probably 90% mobile health apps you find on the app stores). This is taking your mHealth product direct to the consumer. This isn’t a doctor recommended product. This is consumers seeing a health and fitness product that they want and they start using it on their own. We’ve seen millions of people adopt these technologies and you can be sure that we’ll see millions more.
What’s interesting about this market is the challenge it is to maintain a user base. The biggest trend with all of these applications and devices is that people use them for the first couple months and then stop. How many of you have a fitness tracker in a drawer at home? I know I do. Outside of the hard core self trackers, I think we have yet to find a mHealth application with true stickiness beyond the initial experience.
Employer mHealth – Far too many people discount the potential of the employer mHealth market. It’s a shifting market as more and more employers get out of healthcare, but it’s still a huge area of opportunity. The beauty of this market is that employers have a direct financial reason to want to keep their employees healthy. Not only does it reduce their costs to pay for healthcare, but avoiding employee sick days translates to increased office productivity.
The big challenge with employer mHealth is proving that you can reduce their healthcare costs and avoid employee sick days. Plus, even if you can produce a study with these results, it can often be a long and difficult sale to these large organizations. Far too often the person who controls the purse strings is far removed from the person doing their employee wellness program. Bringing those two together is not a simple task.
Enterprise mHealth – I define this part of the market the hospital and doctor focused mHealth applications. In many cases it’s applying mobile to existing technology, but it can also be selling a new mHealth application to doctors and hospitals. The great part of this technology is that we all know that healthcare is heading this direction. Doctors and their patients are very mobile and want these applications. This move is inevitable.
The problem with this market is that doctors and hospitals are so distracted that getting their attention is a herculean task. It’s incredibly hard for a doctor to see what is real and what is myth when it comes to all these new mobile applications. One thing doctors won’t do is risk their reputation. This is why I believe many doctors are slow to adopt mobile health applications. They don’t want to risk making a bad choice and hurting their reputation. We need a better way for doctors to discover what’s really valuable for them in the mHealth world.