Mobile phone technology is set to increase access to healthcare and could open up a new frontier to improve patient care in Africa. Experts gathered for this year’s annual Africa’s mobile health summit in South Africa hailed the use of phone technology to drive significant value for the healthcare industry by improving access, reach and quality care.
Africa has in the past been challenged with the burden of diseases that calls for innovation in new health solutions. It is estimated that more than 20 million people in Africa die prematurely each year due to the lack of basic healthcare.
In a report released by Global System for Mobile Communications association (GSMA) in the summit, it proves that mobile operators are driving significant value for the healthcare industry and the fundamental shift the healthcare industry is undergoing as patients seek non-traditional access to lifesaving solutions.
“Over the past few years we’ve seen mobile operators delivering end-to-end healthcare solutions which have typically been provided by the traditional systems integrator but there is clear evidence supporting operators’ emerging role in eHealth,” said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Development Fund. “Today operators have evolved and are best placed to deliver the solutions addressing the issues that the global healthcare industry faces, by lowering costs and making healthcare more accessible.”
The healthcare industry is undergoing a fundamental shift as demand from patients for services outside of traditional healthcare settings, such as hospitals and clinics, increases. This in turn is driving increased demand for mHealth (Mobile health) services, with the mHealth market estimated to be worth US$23 billion by 2017.
In addition, operators are also developing ICT capabilities that enable them to serve the larger eHealth market, such as cloud-based medical records and imaging as well as in the provision of health information exchanges. This larger eHealth market is estimated to be worth up to USD$160 billion in 2015.
Leading mobile operators are expanding beyond their core capabilities in consumer voice and data, to global business integration capabilities. They are now integral to areas such as cloud computing, enterprise collaboration, machine-to-machine integration and integrated payments to support core clinical and operational processes. For example, the report highlights that Orange is integrating the imaging needs of the most populous region in France, connecting more than 90 hospitals and 500 radiologists and covering a patient base of more than 12 million individuals.
The report provides a market evaluation framework for operators to assess the opportunities and challenges in this broader market. The research also indicates that as mobile operators continue to develop their capabilities to connect people and businesses in increasingly more sophisticated ways, they will face a number of challenges.
Operators will need to build on their brands in order to differentiate themselves from existing ICT infrastructure providers; they will need to demonstrate their ability to deliver as new implementations have large financial and brand risks attached; and they will have to demonstrate the value that they bring to the eHealth industry and end consumers in integrating the solutions both inside and outside of hospitals and clinic settings.
As the mHealth industry continues to develop, there has been no comprehensive cataloguing of global mHealth service deployment. To address this, over the last nine months, the GSMA has tracked and analysed mHealth products and services, and has created the GSMA mHealth Tracker. The mHealth Tracker, which is available online at Mobile Health Live, provides data on more than 600 mHealth products and services.
by Dan Muhuni