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Study Reports mHealth’s Potential, Barriers to Adoption

June 7, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a new study from the New York City-based PwC's Global Healthcare division by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), widespread adoption of mobile health technology (mHealth) will be inevitable in both developed and emerging markets around the world with the total industry estimated a worth of nearly $23 billion by 2017. The study, Emerging mHealth: paths for growth, says the pace of adoption will likely be led by emerging markets and lag consumer demand.

Authors from the report say the promise of mHealth is realized by consumers, but its use of mHealth and speed of adoption will be determined in each country by stakeholders’ who shape the structure healthcare industry.

"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,” David Levy, MD, global healthcare leader of PwC said in a statement. 

He says while many view mHealth as ancillary or bolted on to the healthcare industry, PwC looks it as the future. According to the study, roughly one-half of consumers predict that within the next three years, mHealth will improve the convenience (46 percent), cost (52 percent) and quality (48 percent) of their healthcare.

Interestingly, 59 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 percent), their medication (48 percent) and their overall health (49 percent). 

Nearly 60 percent of consumers expect mHealth to change the way they seek information on health issues and 48 percent 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. 

Sixty percent of consumers said they believe doctors are not as interested in mHealth as patients and technology companies are. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of doctors and payers said that mHealth offers exciting possibilities but there are too few proven business models. Only 27 percent of physicians encourage patients to use mHealth applications to become more active in managing their health, and 13 percent of physicians actually discourage it.

The report includes findings of two surveys conducted by the EIU:  one of consumers and one of physicians and government and private payers in 10 markets, including Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, India, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US. 

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