Don’t measure the future with yardsticks of the past

Stephen Baker, in a recent New York Times article in the New York Times, commented, “The impact of new technologies is invariably misjudged because we measure the future with yardsticks from the past.” The article notes that in the early years of commercially available electricity, practically everyone associated the new industry with one thing:  illumination. What followed, of course, was nearly exponential growth of other “applications” exploiting the platform, from early home appliances up smart phones. And mobile health apps.

I think it’s prudent to apply Mr. Baker’s yardstick and electricity analogies to the field of mobile health. About all that’s certain at this early stage of the game is that growth is spectacular. For example, it’s reported that the Digital Health and Fitness Technology offerings at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will be up by nearly 25%. There are 215 exhibitors in the category, occupying more than 27,000 square feet.

The only other sure thing is that there will be winners and losers. Just as the bursting of the dot com bubble resulted in dozens of pet.coms for every Amazon, there will surely be a massive culling of mobile health technologies as the market advances. Achieving acceptance and success is particularly tricky for mobile health, as there are three critical market segments that need to be satisfied:  The public; healthcare providers; and – in many cases – the FDA. (Which, according to my latest information, has cleared only 75 mobile medical apps.)

It’s quite a horserace, with more horses joining all the time. I’m particularly interested in seeing how major health insurance providers (such as Aetna) will adapt. 2013 promises to be very interesting and exciting.


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Reasons To Be Optimistic

In my last blog, I commented that to convince doctors to communicate more with their patients via smartphone and smartphone apps would require three major shifts:

1. Elimination of some daily tasks the doctor currently performs, in order to allow time for him or her to tend to patients via mobile health options.

2. Clear evidence that adopting mobile health practices will be worthwhile in terms of significantly improved patient care, records administration, office procedures, etc.

3. The learning curve has to be insignificant.

I’m in marketing, and we’re an optimistic lot. We believe in the push-and-pull power of the marketplace, especially in an innovative, eager and tech-hungry nation like the U.S., and especially when the market for mHealth is experiencing explosive growth.

mHealth means money to be made and money to be saved, along with greater access to higher quality care.

While it’s true that many physicians are still mired in a paper-based world of patient records, word is finally getting around, spread by doctors who have established practices in the last few years, that an all-digital system offers extraordinary advantages in terms of time savings, accuracy, lowered administrative costs and ease of use. These benefits are so profound, and so quickly realized, that more and more doctors are biting the bullet and making the conversion.

And there are attendant benefits in terms of improved patient care. According to, with mHealth, up to two times as many rural patients can be reached by a doctor. In addition, mHealth can result in reduced hospital stays and, thanks to mobile monitoring systems, fewer office visits. It’s projected this can equate to savings of 25% or more for seniors.

So, it appears that things are trending in addressing the first two issues I said needed to change before we see wholesale adoption of mHealth as an integral part of the patient/physician relationship. That leaves only the third objection:  learning and deploying the technology. And for this, I again point to my confidence in the marketplace. mHealth application developers who make it easy, efficient and effective for doctors and patients will be rewarded with a big piece of the ever-growing pie.


Posted in: Digital Health, Healthcare Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Medical Devices, Medical Device Marketing, Medical Devices, mHealth, Patients as Healthcare Consumers, Smartphones

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