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“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a smartphone app.”

Star Trek had it right, I think. While Doctor McCoy certainly relied on his trusty Tricorder to help him diagnose his patients (at least his human ones), he then used his training and experience as a physician to apply treatment. And this is happening in the year 2266.

In the same way, I don’t think mobile health applications are going to diminish the role of physicians any time soon. On the contrary, I believe that, once market conditions evolve to where industry leaders are clearly established and their technologies widely accepted, physicians will be able to do their jobs more effectively than ever before. Here’s why:

First, there’s the “Tricorder effect.” Everyone knows how unreliable human recollection and reporting is, even when it comes to things as important as diet, exercise, medication and monitoring vital signs. Mobile health devices, when used properly, don’t forget (or lie) and therefore provide the physician with a realistic set of data from which to evaluate patient status. In addition, mobile health technology will suggest diagnoses and treatment and therefore expand the physician’s knowledge and treatment choices.

Second is the reapportionment of a clinician’s time. Mobile health can cut down on time-consuming patient office visits, without diminishing the level of care. And with quicker access to more accurate patient data, a doctor can expediently determine treatment and therefore may be able to accommodate more patients – a huge plus everywhere, but especially in areas with a shortage of physicians. These increased efficiencies will also have a profound effect on the roles of other healthcare professionals.

Mobile health is presenting us with new tools. We will continue to rely on physicians for their skill in how to use these new tools.

 

Posted in: Digital Health, Health 2.0, Healthcare Marketing, Marketing Medical Devices, Medical Device Marketing, Medical Devices, mHealth, Smartphones, Wellness

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Mobile Activity Apps – It’s a Gold Rush

Weight Watchers recently announced a 16% decrease in second quarter earnings. Their stock price is down nearly 20%. Their CFO’s explanation? “We feel some of that is driven by the continued sudden explosion of interest in free apps and activity monitors.”

Ya think?

The irony is that the goal of Weight Watchers and many of the mobile app developers is identical:  To get people to eat sensibly and exercise regularly. But in some ways, Weight Watchers appears to have been emulating the slow-moving, over-laden people they’ve been catering to since 1963. Weight Watchers has been figuratively sitting on the couch when they should have been actively identifying and figuring out ways to run as fast (or faster) as the new competitors eroding their bottom line.

The competition in this market space is brutal

It’s particularly lamentable to a marketer like me. Weight Watchers has name recognition and a reputation for effectiveness that nearly every mobile activity monitor start-up would kill for. Heck, with 2012 revenues of $1.8 billion, it seems reasonable that they should be among the strongest market leaders in this space. Weight Watchers does, of course, have a mobile application and it appears to address the main parameters important to Weight Watchers subscribers (such as “nearest weight watchers meeting”). But compare the number of Weight Watchers subscribers (approximately 763,000) with, say, mobile activity app MyFitnessPal, with over 40 million users.

I don’t mean to single out Weight Watchers. The competition in this market space is brutal. Product development and marketing costs are prohibitive. New players come in to the field constantly. Consumers are numerous but fickle, and with so many apps being free or nearly so, can afford to be.

Still, the lure of an exploding market and the attendant potential of huge sales and profits keeps the players in the game. Established fitness-associated companies (such as Weight Watchers and Nike, for example) need to capitalize on their powerful reputations and produce mobile apps consistent with their brand standards. Startups will rely on unique insight and innovation. This is a Gold Rush. There will be big winners and big losers. But Gold Rushes don’t last forever.

 

Posted in: Digital Health, Health 2.0, Healthcare Marketing, Marketing Medical Devices, Medical Device Marketing, Medical Devices, mHealth, Patients as Healthcare Consumers

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