Leveraging the mHealth Opportunity
eyeforpharma talks to Michael Weinberger, Senior Director, Innovation & Enterprise Solutions at Johnson & Johnson about mHealth as an indispensible part of the healthcare landscape and the need to provide utility to the end-user.
Supported by the rapid proliferation of smartphones, mobile health has risen to the forefront of discussions about the future of healthcare. It is expected to continue to build on this momentum. A recent report by Transparency Market Research projects that the global mobile health market could be worth $8bn by 2019.1
This hype is fuelled by the enormity of what mHealth promises to help achieve: saving lives, improving health outcomes and doing so within the limits of strained budgets.
The pharmaceutical industry has yet to harness the enormous potential of mHealth, according to eyeforpharma's recently launched whitepaper "Leveraging the mHealth Opportunity". There are just under 250 apps created by pharmaceutical companies available on iOS and Android today, ranging from chronic disease management to medical reference tools.2 In a highly fragmented market, only Sanofi Aventis has managed to clock serious download figures (more than 1 million), which compared to leading developers outside of pharma is still relatively small. mHealth is still in relative infancy however, with recent research finding that half of health app publishers have only released one or two products.
Providing genuine utility
Our customers reach a quick appreciation as to whether an app is a thinly veiled “digital trinket" or whether it genuinely provides utility in terms of enhanced convenience, experience and outcomes."
According to Michael Weinberger, Senior Director, Innovation & Enterprise Solutions at Johnson & Johnson, it is a foregone conclusion that mHealth will play a fundamental role in how we manage healthcare in the future. But in order for the pharmaceutical industry to deliver enhanced value to payers, patients and HCPs, they need to understand the consumer mindset. He elucidates: "Our customers reach a quick appreciation as to whether an app is a thinly veiled “digital trinket" or whether it genuinely provides utility in terms of enhanced convenience, experience and outcomes."
He goes on to say: "These consumers are the true driving force in mHealth because unless an app delivers value to the patient it will be quickly ignored or deleted. So, mHealth is not just another chapter in the story of digital marketing—a new avenue to promote and to sell. Rather it is an opportunity to help our customers reach their personal and family healthcare goals in new and exciting ways. And in the process, mHealth will enable the industry to augment its talents as suppliers of product and providers of services and solutions".
Transformative potential of mHealth
One way for pharma to catch up is to pay attention to what market leaders are doing. This means observing the app categories that are gaining most traction with consumers and placing patient benefits rather than brand awareness at the center of initiatives.
“Leveraging the mHealth Opportunity” showcases six innovators in the mHealth space who are actively supporting patients and healthcare providers, providing that essential utility by tackling specific problems in a targeted way. The whitepaper is based on in-depth interviews with members of the founding teams. All pioneers in the field of mHealth, they openly share their experiences: trials, tribulations and successes. The intention is to provide those in the pharmaceutical industry with a behind-the-scenes look at successful app development, providing both information and inspiration.
One of the six innovators featured in “Leveraging the mHealth Opportunity” is Peek Vision, who provide powerful comprehensive eye examinations and diagnostics to the least well-resourced and most isolated communities - delivered via smartphone. At least 280 million people worldwide are visually impaired, 39 million of these people are blind and yet a staggering 80% of blindness is curable. The smartphone app offers a range of tests, including standard vision tests, cataract detection and even (with a small attachment for the smartphone) retinal imaging that scans the back of the eye for issues.
The app was developed by a team of ophthalmologists, engineers, software developers and researchers who shared a common goal: to expand access to high quality eyecare, empower all health workers to diagnose eye diseases and simplify managing and monitoring treatment of patients anywhere in the world. Increased diagnosis is a massive breakthrough and could prove tranformative in the fight against visual impairment which has enormous implications both for the individual and their families where blindness can result in a loss of income.
Ability to collaborate and innovate crucial
The potential of mHealth is vast and it will require key skills in order for pharma to harness its transformative potential.
"Rather than wait to be disintermediated, pharma needs to understand the transformative potential of the mHealth space, unearthing the technological capabilities to address fundamental healthcare problems such as ageing society, an increasing rate of multiple morbidities and cost concerns in a financially stretched healthcare system. The ability to collaborate and innovate will separate the lumbering incumbents from the radical pioneers", according to Weinberger.
1: mHealth Monitoring And Diagnostic Medical Devices Market, Transparency Market Research, 2014
2: mHealth App Developer Economics 2014, research2guidance
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