The adoption of mobile technology in the healthcare sector is widespread and viewed as an integral part of delivering care by doctors especially in developed markets like US and emerging markets like India. mHealth or Mobile Health is the process of integrating medical practice with mobile technology to achieve improved health outcomes. Even though India is at a nascent stage, it holds second position in adopting mobile healthcare among the developing countries. The growth of the mHealth market will lead to a revenue opportunity worth Rs 3000 crores (US $ 0.6 billion) for India and US$23 billion for the world by 2017 according to a PwC India report.
Consumers across economies see mHealth as a medium to access healthcare conveniently and affordably saving both time and money using mobile connectivity, 4G services, and infrastructure. In India where public health suffers setback due to long waiting time for appointments and consultation, there is a great appetite for mhealth in both urban and rural areas. However, India is facing some huge set of challenges in healthcare sector.
Hospitals are still running on closed legacy systems. It is surprising that even in this age of digitization; patients have to carry multiple medical records in physical copies. A patient’s record is spread across multiple IT systems even within a hospital. Hospitals, imaging centers and clinicians at times do not have clear incentives to share information openly and security/privacy is one of the top challenges.
There is a need to improve communication and patient engagement capabilities in healthcare by streamlining the process of information sharing, while offering timesaving efficiencies for both patient and providers. Therefore, effective patient engagement tools are called for in order to enable the patients to take control of their health outcomes and simplify health record management.
mHealth can address most of the above-mentioned challenges. The overall adoption of mHealth applications can significantly increase availability of information and engagement for citizens in need of healthcare. With the increasing penetration of smartphone devices, healthcare delivery can use mHealth mechanisms for more cost effective and efficient delivery of care.
It can facilitate a significant transformation in the healthcare sector in India by exploring the rural market and enhancing patient care for urban consumers. The Mobile Health market opportunity for India will constitute 8% of the total Asia-Pacific opportunity in 2017.
The prospects of delivering care through mHealth are quite high if we consider the IAMAI report. The Indian mobile internet user-base has witnessed a growth from 238 Mn to 306 Mn by December 2015. While the user base in rural India saw a growth of 93 percent, the urban base grew by 71 percent and the overall user based is expected to grow over 55 per cent to 371 Mn by June 2016.
In another Wipro report on mHealth, it was shown that while the cities have already been connected with mHealth, India has over 247 million rural households that drive the market opportunity for rural health.
The private healthcare sector in India has rendered innovative services in mHealth space. Nevertheless, in order to ensure public wellness both public and private sectors need to contribute. The Government of India has come up with mobile apps like National Health Portal India, AIIMS-WHO CC ENBC, Healthy You Card, Medimint etc. to provide healthcare information to the citizens of India.
Apart from this, the telcos are important contributors in mHealth and can contribute by improving connectivity and infrastructure as mHealth is all about connecting healthcare service providers and patients seamlessly. The need of the hour is to roll out innovative mHealth products and services with the government, the healthcare providers and the telecos coming together to create mHealth ecosystem.
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