Could you imagine a long way medicine has traveled? From shamans to highly-qualified doctors, from herbal potions to chemical pharmacons, from medical instruments made of stone to powerful medical equipment. Indeed, few would disagree that modern medicine has impressively developed. Nowadays, along with equipment and technologies aimed directly at diagnosis and treatment, we also observe the automation of medical services: in most hospitals, we can enjoy electronic medical records, online appointment booking, electronic prescribing, and other things that save paper and our time. All these things comprise so-called electronic healthcare (or eHealth).
The eHealth obviously means something more than healthcare records in electronic form: in fact, it embraces a wide range of services or systems that unite medicine and informational technologies, such as telemedicine, clinical decision support systems, virtual healthcare teams, etc. Besides, one of the most promising branches of the eHealth is a mobile healthcare (or simply mHealth), which we will talk about.
The mHealth is a relatively new field: developments in that sphere started in the 1990s but got widespread only over recent years. It caters for the usage of mobile devices in order to take control of one’s health. If you have no idea what they can be, remember mobile applications designed for controlling training or diagnosing heart rhythms that you might use – such applications are a good example of mHealth. Nevertheless, the range of mHealth devices and technologies is much wider. Another example of it can be the system Medvisor, developed by our team. This system allows arranging a visit to a doctor, distributes patient by scheduled time, keeps visitors records and manages medical staff workload. Also, it generates reports, uploads examination data, compares prescriptions and provides a medical assessment. If we analyze the mobile healthcare market, we can distinguish 2 main types of mHealth devices: fitness and medical itself.
We all know that fitness does a lot of good to our health, and many people believe it is a perfect way to sustain their life. Plus, a healthy lifestyle is simply in fashion today. All those things explain the popularity of fitness gadgets: according to research, about 43% of consumers are eager to buy them. The fitness branch includes various physical activity trackers like smart glasses, bracelets, watches, smart clothes, and so on, as well as mobile applications for monitoring your physical state. Although there is no any explicit leader company in this sphere, the market of fitness devices is developing rapidly with new outstanding gadgets appearing all the time.
The medical branch is not as fast growing as the fitness one. One of the reasons for that is the necessity of thorough researches and testings before implementation. Nevertheless, in 2012 the monitoring and diagnosis mHealth market was $650 mln, and this fact shows that the medical branch of mHealth is developing slowly but steadily. It is not surprising: many of us dream to access medical services easily and immediately, as well as to have the opportunity to monitor our health with no outside help, and this is one of the reasons that fuel the development of this branch.
Along with the desire to monitor health without any difficulties, there are some other factors that show how important the development of mobile healthcare is. Everyone is aware of such a problem as the population aging. According to the UNO’s forecasts, golden-agers who need medical care more will have made up 22% of the world population by 2055, while the number of nurses is decreasing. Plus, village inhabitants often have difficulties with the access to the quality medical services. Is there any possible solution? Yes, mobile healthcare! Smartphones become more widespread with each day, that’s why to take care of your health will be as easy as to buy a mobile phone. Besides, the mHealth systems and devices have a beneficial impact on the medical sphere itself, automating many medical procedures, helping in patient care and, what is more, sufficiently saving money.
We suggest subdividing this branch into 3 branches: education, diagnose, and patient care systems. The education branch includes handbook of diseases and symptoms applications, applications for disease awareness, disease and epidemic outbreak tracking, etc. Such an application usually doesn’t give any treatment: they mainly help people to learn more about various diseases and ways to prevent health problems, i.e. are of informational nature.
The situation is different with the diagnose branch, as it deals with the medicine closer. Diagnose systems and devices allow people to monitor the state of their health without the necessity to visit a hospital. They are the systems for brain, sleep, heart, blood pressure monitoring; systems for taking samples of blood, spit, urine and providing fast diagnosis, wearable, implantable and swallowed sensors of various vital indications, applications for health and drug usage control.
In some cases, the devices of this type are closely connected with the patient care systems such as systems of remote interaction with the doctor, care systems for the elderly, chronically ill and children, remote monitoring, etc. Such equipment is rather serious in terms of health: most of them not only monitor the health of a patient but also can take certain decisions like to make an injection or to warn the doctor.
The example of the system which shows this connection is Emfit that works on the software developed by Andersen. Emfit controls the body during sleep. With the help of sensors placed under the mattress, the system records 9 essential parameters of a body, which helps to monitor the patient state. Obviously, such systems are essential in medical institutions, as well as other systems, devices, and applications that belong to the medical branch. For that reason, this type of mHealth, really worth being developed, no less than the fitness one.
Fortunately, this field receives good investment. According to different estimates, investments in mHealth make up to 10% of the total volume of venture transactions, with millions of dollars invested in that sphere. The number of start-ups connected with mHealth is on the increase, and the number of mobile healthcare applications has risen beyond 2 million. All these facts indicate that this segment is one of the fastest growing in relation to the exogenous investment. And the perspectives of the mHealth are surely bright.