Mobile health or mHealth is the practice use of mobile devices for the purpose of health services, information, and data collection. mHealth has emerged as a booming field due to advancements in the use of information and communication technology (ICT), for health services and information. mHealth applications include the use of mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers and wearable devices such as smart watches, in collecting health data, delivery of healthcare information, real-time monitoring, and direct provision of care via mobile telemedicine.
The mHealth market is growing at an explosive pace due to the factors such as increasing awareness of mobile technology applications, surging focus on patient-centric healthcare deliver, technological innovations, concerns over the rising cost of healthcare delivery, growing integration of wireless technologies, convenience of medical devices, falling prices and growing affordability of mobile devices and others.
The factors constraining the market are low mobile and network coverage in developing and poorer regions of the world, lower accuracy, poor penetration of smart devices, nascent technology in underdeveloped economies, limited reimbursement, lack of technological awareness among the ageing population, concerns over information security and privacy and others.
A careful analysis of the factors reveals the following;
The global mHealth market is projected to reach USD 21.71 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 35.65% during the forecast period.
mHealth Market is segmented by devices, services, technology and applications. The device segment is sub segmented into blood glucose meters, BP monitors, pulse oximetry, neurological monitoring, wearable fitness sensor device, heart rate meters and others. The services segment is sub segmented into diagnosis, monitoring, prevention, treatment, and others. The application segment is sub segmented into cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, genetic diseases and others.
The largest players in the mHealth market are Apple, AT&T, AirStrip, Boston Scientific, CardioNet, Athena health, Sanofi, Fitbit, Telcare, Zephyr Technology and others
While mHealth grew out of industrialized nations, the field has shifted in favour of the developing countries, stemming from the rapid rise of mobile phone penetration in low-income nations. For example, in a study conducted by Pew research in contrast to a median of 45% across emerging and developing countries reported using the internet occasionally in 2013, the number in 2015, rose to a whopping 54%. The largest growth has been reported from large emerging economies such as Malaysia, Brazil and China. The comparative figures in 2015 was 87% for advanced economies such as U.S. and Canada, major Western European nations, Australia, Japan etc.
Another example can be seen in the falling divide for smartphone ownership between developing and developed economies. Smartphone ownership rates in emerging and developing nations climbed from a median of 21% in 2013 to an eye watering 37% in 2015. There also is an effect of the demographic dividend that is paying well for the market as in nearly every country, millennials are much more likely to be internet and smartphone users compared with those ages 35 and older. Other findings reveal that smartphone ownership rates have skyrocketed in many countries since 2013. This includes increases of over 25 percentage points among the economies of Turkey, Malaysia, Chile and Brazil.
In a number of emerging and developing countries, more people have access to the internet and are also using it more frequently. In 12 emerging nations surveyed in 2014 and 2015, there were significant increases in the share of adult internet users who say they access the internet several times a day, including in Nigeria (+20 points), Ghana (+19) and China (+13). Thus developing region nations are likely to be the leaders in mHealth market in the near future.
However Africa remains a dark continent for the mhealth market due to its poor socio economic conditions. The countries with the least smartphone ownership rates are Tanzania (11%), Uganda (4%) and Ethiopia (4%).
Gender gaps and digital divide are raging issues that have been not analysed to the degree they demand. Men are more likely than women to use the internet and these differences are especially stark in African nations. Large gender gaps also appear on smartphone ownership with men being more likely to own a smartphone in many countries, in developing regions. The applications of mHealth also reflect the social reality. mHealth is restricted to dissemination of information, whereas the developed world is moving towards connected healthcare and big data applications.