Mobile Health Devices Require New Strategies for Manufacturers

Posted in Mobile Health by Heather Thompson on December 22, 2010

Mobile health devices have the potential to be one of the most disruptive technologies to enter the healthcare industry. Why? Because these devices are having one of the most profound effects on the work flow and practice of medicine, according to Chris Wasden, managing director of PricewaterhouseCooper’s U.S. Healthcare Strategy and Innovation Practice (New York City). The excitement surrounding this technology comes from its ability to provide instant and mobile digital healthcare delivery (i.e., sending and sharing information electronically) as opposed to the traditional analog delivery (i.e., charts, paper trails, etc.). Adding to this enthusiasm is the fact that the technology allows a doctor to provide digital diagnosis and delivery in the palm of his or her hand.

Physicians state the affect that mobile health would have on their practice. Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute

For medical device companies to develop successful devices for the mobile healthcare market, they need to focus on creating devices that not only improve the healthcare experience for both doctors and patients, but also ones that lower costs to the healthcare system as a whole. “Our [U.S.] healthcare system is so extensive and so much energy is invested in maintaining the high level of payment that it creates a disincentive for very inexpensive solutions,” says Wasden.

Part of the cost issue is a result of the general business model used by many medical device companies versus consumer electronics companies, for example. Wasden says that many device companies focus on low volume, high-priced, and high-margined products and need to evolve into a more consumer-centric focus. “When you talk to a consumer electronics company, they’re not interested in creating a $3000 wireless thermometer,” says Wasden.

“They’re interested in creating a $100 wireless computer product that a patient can use on their own, enables the prediction of an asthmatic event, and sends information to clinicians [to] intervene and stop an event.” As a result, a consumer electronics company focuses on the mass market, selling inexpensive devices that are more predictive than diagnostic in nature. This method is more disruptive because it is designed to improve health before a patient becomes ill.

Wasden offers five principles that device companies can use to determine whether a mobile healthcare product will be a success. These principles are as follows:

  • Integration. The technology must be integrated into the care delivery system so that it reaches as many of the touch points surrounding care as it can—including the patient, family, doctors, larger provider, and health plan.
  • Interoperability. The device must be able to communicate with other devices. Interoperability avoids silo devices that gather information but only deliver to one part of a system or network.
  • Intelligence. When combining so much data and information into a device that tries to change patient behavior, manufacturers must have an intelligent device that does more than just give the data back. Socialization. The power of an integrated application and integrated devices is that they can socialize information so that patients can have many people involved in their care.
  • Outcome. Applications of devices must take their integration, interoperability, intelligence, and socialization and deliver results that can be documented and quantified. Organizations that are developing applications need to develop a consumer-centric model that integrates all these different points.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute, the annual consumer market for remote and mobile monitoring device is estimated between $7.7 billion and $43 billion. In order for mobile health device adoption to occur, device manufacturers will need to evolve their business model by understanding the patient and consumer population as well as the physician.

More information about mobile health technology and the perspectives of patients, doctors, and other stakeholders is available in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report, titled “Healthcare Unwired: New Business Models Delivering Care Anywhere.” It can be downloaded from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Web site.

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