Digital Health

5 key mHealth trends making their mark in 2015

29th July 2015

If you’ve been following the Waracle blog for a while, you’ll be only too aware of our interest and involvement in the mHealth revolution, the much lauded game-changer that has the ability to transform lives for the better, to alter the structure of health services for the greater good, and to change the future of healthcare for, well, for ever. This article covers the 5 key mHealth trends that are making their mark in 2015.

We’ve already covered how mobile technology is revolutionising healthcare, ways in which mHealth can impact the NHS and the ROI of apps in mHealth. So we have plenty of great mHealth related content for you to explore.

There are a lot of stats and predictions flying around about mHealth right now, but a conservative estimate says that the global mHealth services market is to reach 23 billion by 2020. It’s massive, and it’s big business. And like any business, we can expect to see trends emerging where it behoves us to focus.

We also recently published this fantastic guest post from Kenny Fraser @ Sunstone Communications entitled ‘Time for mobile to save healthcare‘.

Here’s where we think the big trends are right now:

1.) Wearables

We’ve put this at Number One because it’s got huge potential to transform lives. When we think about wearables, right now you’re like to think devices like FitBit; Apple Watch, Garmin – devices that track your fitness and which tell you when you’re hitting your health targets (or otherwise). What these devices don’t do however is deliver up any useful data to anyone else but the wearer – and that means limitations as far as innovation goes. But start thinking beyond wrist-watch type wearable and thinking wearables with companion apps and we start to get into the realms of the fantastic (especially when ‘sensor’ technology enters the mix.) Our favourites so far? The Intelligent Asthma Management by Health Care Originals, a device that partners up with an app to deliver real-time data on asthma monitoring and management. And The Helius by Proteus Digital Health, a consumable ‘pill’ that once taken kicks in to monitor a whole range of health goings-on of the carrier. The ‘pill’ is still in testing but it’s rumoured to be looking at launch in some form by the end of 2015.

2.) Telemedicine

This one’s really in joint-first place along with Wearables because it’s got such massive potential to revolutionise ailing healthcare systems worldwide that are breaking under the strain of growing (and ageing) populations. Studies in the US have shown that around 80% of patients discharged from an ER (that’s patients that are treated and then sent home) sought care at the facility because of lack of access to a doctor. Take away the requirement to make the physical journey and presentation to the doctor in the first place and you’ve got Telemedicine. The ability to communicate with nurses, doctors and specialists from anywhere they have access to a mobile (or otherwise) device means super-efficient, resource-saving healthcare that might not be new, no, but which has opened up a whole new way of delivering medical care and advice that’s comparable to a surgery visit. When you consider that ER is the most expensive and least efficient way to provide non-emergency care, it’s a no-brainer – but it’s still got a lot of red tape to hack its way thru with the service being banned or severely limited in some states in the US.

3.) Big Data

It’s not only the world’s Marketing Departments that reap the rewards of big data mining. With mHealth, healthcare professionals have access to an unprecedented amount of patient data that once analysed is going to help them to improve treatments, predict problems and then treat an infinite range of complex issues – from stress to depression to sleep problems to back pain – and pretty much anything else you can think of. There’s certainly no lack of data when it comes to health – in fact, we’re amassing huge amounts of information. The challenge is making sense of the data – around 80 % of health data at the present time is unstructured – and then being able to work with it to do good things. Great news then that IBM has teamed up with Apple to do just that, with data from opt-in patients being stored (using iOS apps like Apple’s ResearchKit and HealthKit) and analysed to identify patterns and provide solutions to highlighted issues that are relevant not only to individuals but to whole communities and even populations.

4.) Prescription-Only Apps

86% of clinicians believe that apps will become important for health management over the next 5 years( PWC Top Health Industry Trends 2015) – and with thousands of health apps already available its not a huge leap to imagine many more emerging as prescription only. With the innovative Blue Star app by WellDoc launching last year – the first app requiring a doctor’s prescription and corresponding code to use it – this trend is definitely one to watch. Blue Star’s app is essentially what’s called a “Mobile Prescription Therapy”, one that allows users to input data for on glucose levels, exercise and diet (among others) – with the app taking and processing that data and providing feedback in real time. However what it also does is analyse the data for the users doctor, as well as being able to provide user feedback to their practitioner before any physical appointments at the surgery. That’s a lot of time saved, and a lot of resources too, and we’re expecting to see a lot more of these launching throughout this year.

5.) mHealth for an Ageing population

By 2060, 12% of the European population will be above 80 , with another 17.5% aged between 65 and 79. And as the ageing population increases, there won’t be sufficient resources to care adequately for it. That’s where mHealth steps in. Right now, nearly all wearables and technology developed specifically for the elderly is location-based with functionality that either finds ‘lost’ users (think dementia) or alerts family or services if there’s been an accident. What’s really needed, however, is technology that helps improve quality of life, and at the same time help them feel safe. One such solution is the in-development ORBIS-ACTIVE, a tablet- based platform for residential home occupants that focuses on social interaction, and on stimulating users to be more active. Users can contact each other, interact with their families and invite other users to get involved in activities that match their own personal interests, and it can also be used to remind users about taking medication. There’s even an algorithm that detects changes in behaviour (such as a drop off in communication). We expect as this area of mHealth gathers pace and focus that more innovative technology will emerge and we’re hoping for big things over the next 12 months.

So there you have it, our thoughts around mHealth trends at the halfway point of the year. The bottom line? mHealth offers some amazing opportunities to address one of the most urgent global challenges – making healthcare more accessible, efficient and cheaper. The Waracle team are currently involved in some very exciting mHealth projects, so expect more content around this topic – we’ll make it our mission to keep you informed!

In the meantime, we’d just like to say a huge thanks to Max Little, Visiting Assistant Professor at the legendary MIT, who had this to say about the great work the Waracle team have been doing in and around this space:

“I’m impressed by the very professional app that you produced for the pharmaceutical industry, it is working superbly and it has opened up opportunities for medical data analysis that we have not had the opportunity to examine before, in particular the wealth of continuous and reliable sensor data collected. I can be pretty confident that more companies will want to expand on this effort. I know that one of the problems here is making a viable business out of what might be considered to be a ‘niche’ market. I’m not sure what the solution is, but as you say, there does seem to be growing interest in ‘repurposing’ consumer devices for health and research, e.g. Apple ResearchKit and now Google’s efforts, similarly also Samsung and Microsoft. A lot will be driven by the need to expand the range of sensors in the hardware to e.g. continuous vital signs monitoring, but it seems that these giants are on the case already.”

So thanks again to Max for this wonderful quote. If you’re a company in pharmaceuticals looking to join the highly lucrative and rapidly growing mHealth space, contact us today to start the conversation. We’ve worked with top names in healthcare such as Imperial College London and NHS to design, develop and optimise world class mHealth apps.

Check out our findings in relation to the phenomenal ROI of mobile apps in mHealth:

We’ve already discovered that apps in drug trials are dramatically enhancing the frequency, quality and volume of data. Mobile apps are having an enormous impact on completion rates and patient adherence. In terms of the numbers, we’ve seen completion rates rocket from just over 50% (with no accompanying mobile app) to over 80% when an app is used in direct conjunction with a clinical trial. We reckon that on average it costs pharmaceutical companies £20,000 for every participant in a clinical trial. This actually signifies a cost saving of more than £1 million for pharmaceutical companies for every drugs trial that’s conducted. If we consider that this provides a saving of over £1 million for each drugs trial, this actually represents a 10x ROI for pharma companies who adopt the use of mobile apps using a data driven project methodology.

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