OPINION

mHealth: A Funny Thing’s Happening on My Way to CTIA

As I prepare to attend the CTIA show in Orlando, Fla., next month, I am getting calls and emails from healthcare companies wanting to meet with me. That is amazing. The lines that separated healthcare and wireless are blurring. We are in the early stages of the healthcare industry working with the wireless and telecom industry to create an entirely new business segment with loads of new opportunities, risks and challenges.

At the end of this piece I will also discuss a new report on healthcare opportunities from research firm In-Stat.

“mHealth” and “eHealth” are not only new words, but also new worlds. In recent years, they have come to represent brand new ways of doing things in healthcare — in fact, new ways of looking at the way we do everything in the medical community. This is one of the most exciting opportunities we have seen in our lifetimes, and it is still in the very early stages.

So what do these new terms mean? “mHealth,” or mobile health, is simply health supported by mobile devices, according to Wikipedia. mHealth uses mobile communications networks and devices such as mobile phones and PDAs for health services and information. Before long, I’ll bet we will start to see TV commercials saying, there is an app for that — but it will be a medical app.

“eHealth” is the other new term, and it refers to healthcare supported by electronic processes and communications. It started around 10 years ago, and it uses electronic and digital devices and processes in healthcare and health informatics. It also utilizes the Internet and involves electronic health records, telemedicine, consumer health informatics, healthcare information systems and so on.

A Dazzling Array of Possibilities

Think about this as a revolution that is beginning to transform healthcare. In fact, doctors will have to hire the electronics experts they need to work all this technology. This is a new opportunity for service companies and individuals.

Just consider all the coming possibilities. Doctors can now begin to treat patients remotely. Doctors and hospitals can collect medical and health data and even deliver healthcare in new ways. eHealth lets monitoring take place from a patient’s home with equipment connected wirelessly to the doctors office. It brings new tools and technologies to hospitals to care for us in a much more advanced way. And it is in the market right now.

There are already unlimited opportunities, and these are just the very early days. Objectives include access to healthcare and health-related information, as well as improved ability to diagnose and track diseases. New technology will be in the doctor’s office, the hospital, and even at home. This opens all sorts of new opportunities like training health workers, and many other areas as well.

Over the last 25 years as an analyst, I have worked with every major wireless, local and long distance phone company, as well as many others — like equipment makers, Internet companies and so on.

Now I am hearing from a growing number of companies with new ideas in the enormous healthcare field. I have to say this is getting very exciting for everyone, including patients, investors, workers and the entire industry.

I recently met with a company that wanted to brief me on its new healthcare technology that has not been released yet. It also needed advice on dealing with the wireless and wire line industry. This is the future. Breaking through all the noise in the crowded and noisy marketplace is always one of the biggest challenges.

Several years ago, I had a serious health issue. As I struggled to recover, I experienced many of these brand new and exciting technologies. I learned that in healthcare, things change quickly. In just the last few years, many of those brand new technologies have already been replaced by the next best thing. It’s truly a very fast-moving and changing industry.

Over the last couple of years, I have been contacted by an increasing number of healthcare companies wanting to brief me on their new technologies. Many of them are very interesting and may indeed be valuable to all of us, including our families and friends.

There are so many new advancements to focus on. Apps are those simple games or software tools with icons on smartphones. Their growth has exploded in the last few years.

A New Health App World

Health apps are brand new, and they are going to be very important going forward. They can connect doctors and patients to provide more thorough healthcare. They can let patients communicate with their doctors on their prescriptions and test results, and prompt ongoing adjustments.

Diabetics can send in daily numbers on their glucose to let the doctor more closely follow their progress. Dieticians and weight loss specialists can communicate with patients on a daily basis, checking weight loss progress and sending inspirational messages.

There is an unlimited number of ideas and opportunities that are just beginning. Healthcare is starting to change quickly, thanks to these wireless and wire line technologies.

This is the reason a growing number of healthcare companies are attending the CTIA show. They are trying to reach out to the wireless industry and connect. This wave of innovation looks like it will be the next big wave in wireless and healthcare.

I have to admit, I was initially surprised by the growing number of healthcare companies that have been attending these shows over recent years. However, when you think about it, this is exactly what we should expect going forward. It’s all about blending industries to achieve new waves of products and services.

Truthfully, I think this is very exciting. This is an entirely new industry segment with the same huge opportunities for growth we have seen in the tech industry. The good news is that we are just in the early stages.

At CTIA, I normally just meet with AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and so on, but now there is a new universe of very interesting and innovative companies capturing my imagination.

What a shift… or is it? It is not something I am creating. Instead it is a new wave I am reacting to. It is an enormous opportunity for everyone, and it is just beginning. How will this impact you, your company and your industry segment? Where will new opportunities pop up that are not on your radar yet?

This entire new industry segment is in the first inning of a brand new game. It will grow and change so much in coming years. Some ideas and companies will be bright for a short time, then burn out, while other companies and ideas will last. Choosing the right companies will make all the difference — whether you are an investor, an employee, a patient, doctor or hospital.

I will write about the many exciting ideas and companies I learn about. We don’t yet know what this will look like going forward, but this is a great place to start. This changing marketplace is truly amazing.Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

A new report from In-Stat forecasts US$4.5 billion will be spent on wireless data by the U.S. healthcare industry by 2014. If that weren’t good enough news, remember this is just one slice of a very large pie. That is an incredible new opportunity for the wireless and healthcare world, isn’t it?

The primary objectives in healthcare are around immediacy and mobility, according to In-Stat, which notes that medical caregivers now seek portable access to data, patient status, records, diagnostic tools, prescriptions and medications.

This will change what has become business-as-usual in the entire growing industry. Just think about this as the very early years in this brand new wonderful world of opportunity unfold for patients, companies, workers and investors.

It’s time to buckle up. The ride has begun.

Jeff Kagan

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

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