Not feeling well today? Worried about your health? Don’t worry – your service provider will fix you right up – or at least that’s the plan in the future (and you’ll have The Cloud to thank for that). Not surprisingly, “The Cloud” is a focus at 4G World, with discussions ranging from cloud best practices to best strategies to best user experiences. And one of the “potentially the most attractive” opportunities of all the “verticals” being addressed by operators is the still relatively-untapped mobile health, or eHealth, space (GSMA & AT Kearney report).
Llike me, you might already have downloaded a health-related app to your smartphone that enables you, for example, to monitor your heart rate while jogging (and actually downloading and using apps is actually our main use of eHealth right now). But when the mobile network operators start to get onboard, the way we use eHealth is going to change dramatically, with Analysys Mason forecasting 52.7 million m-health connections worldwide by 2021.
What’s driving this move to eHealth? Well, wireless technology along with protocol independence is now at a point where the connectivity and interactions between the patient and healthcare provider can be simplified, (and what patient wouldn’t prefer to have real-time healthcare?):
“Cellular technology provides easy set-up and reliable real-time communication for a market that largely targets the less technically knowledgeable and in a market area where speed of communication can be vital.”
Body Area Networks for Sports and Healthcare, ABI Research report, 2012
Putting aside the health and efficiency benefits for both patients and healthcare providers, there’s an urgent need to reduce rocketing healthcare costs described by Parks Associates’ Stuart Pikes as “crippling” that are needed to support the management of chronic diseases, (and which represent more than 75 percent of overall healthcare costs in the US). Parkes states that this, combined with the fact that we’re living longer, is leading to:
“…a massive increase in demand for connected healthcare technologies that enable cost-effective, in-home monitoring of the elderly and of patients with chronic diseases.
A number of service providers, capitalizing on the innovative communication capabilities of today’s digital life, have already introduced connected home solutions and many more will introduce eHealth solutions in the near term.”
Examples of operators who have started to test the eHealth waters are Orange Business Services and Verizon Wireless who provide wireless connectivity to enable their healthcare provider customers to deliver a managed e-health service. Examples of operators already providing connected home solutions are Rogers (Canada), Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Qivicom (Deutsche Telekom), Swisscom, and Elisa.
The opportunity for operators to enter the market or expand their role will be helped along by new solutions such as the Home Health Monitoring and Aging In Place solutions that Amdocs has launched this week at 4G World.
And solutions like these mean that operators can do a lot more than just provide connectivity – the real revenue potential identified earlier by GSMA comes from changing in their role in the value chain to providing value-added services which might range from traditional telecom services of security and data management right through to clinical services.
With more effective, lower cost healthcare, everyone benefits. Question is, in five years time, which operators are going to lead when it comes to ehealth?
BLOGGER: NAOMI WEISER