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A scorecard for mHealth

This time last year I risked making some predictions for mHealth in 2014. I thought I’d revisit those, not so much to see if I was right (unimportant) but to deliver a scorecard for progress made (very important).

image of scorecard for mhealth

Prediction 1: mHealth will be led by consumerisation in 2014.

I think this trend carried on strongly, and I’ve given this a 7/10. There was continued proliferation in wearable health tech and a rash of product launches from the likes of Samsung, LG, Fitbit, Jawbone, Withings, Sony to name a few. Apple also stirred the pot with the launch of Apple Watch (yet to ship of course) but perhaps more importantly Apple Healthkit software which has the potential to create a bridge between consumer and professional data. What was also pleasing to see was that design aesthetics became important – the products are becoming better looking, which is fairly high up on consumer needs.  CES at Las Vegas this week has continued the theme with a further raft of new products and I’m sure these products aren’t being built for fun – it’s estimated that 13M activity trackers alone were sold in 2014.

I would have given a higher score but for one factor – this is still an aficionado market and we still have a majority of people who don’t know what mHealth is.

Prediction 2: mHealth will start to be led by healthcare professionals in 2014 

I would say this has worked out pretty well too, also a 7/10. As well as the continued inspiration of celebrity clinicians like Eric Topol and Leslie Saxon, I was able to highlight the work of ‘digital health heroes’ like Prof. Shahid Ali, Professor George Crooks  and the Stoke on Trent CCG here in the UK. This was gratifying as the UK has traditionally lagged. We also saw a rash of ‘remote doctor’ type services being launched, including Babylon here in the UK and many others in the US. The recent publicity around lack of access to GPs and waiting times in A&E can only add to the popularity of these new services.

Again I would have given a higher score if these ‘digital heroes’ were more than a minority – there are still lots of nay-sayers.

Prediction 3: Machine to Machine connected medical devices will start to make a real impact

I think there’s been continuous growth here, and I’d also give it a 7/10. We had a number of products coming to market or growing business this year – and this has now become an unstoppable trend I feel. Serious players like Medtronic with their Linq , Merck Serono with their smart injector, Telcare with their BGM, InfoBionic’s MoMe™ cardio monitor. Assisted living products for the elderly seem to be switching across to M2M rapidly with companies like Lively producing very neat and up to date solutions. Platform companies like Qualcomm Life have been major facilitators by providing the hardware, software and network tools to make the transition easier.

I’d give it a higher score if it was just more obvious – the nature of M2M is that you don’t know it’s there, it just works.

Prediction 4: Wearables will enter the mainstream

I’m afraid this one has been slightly disappointing, I’ll give it a 5/10. Yes the wrist-worn devices have done well, as I’ve noted above, and there has continued to be new product launches, but most of them I’m afraid fall into the category of ‘I’m still wondering why I would need this’ and/or ‘much too embarrassing to wear’. Certainly the flag-bearer of this movement, Google Glass, seems to have epitomised the ‘lose-lose’ of wearables – it has not taken off in terms of real application delivery and has marked out the wearers for social stigma.  Back to the drawing board with this one. 

Trends I missed

The big one for me was the rapid rise of mHealth for Pharmacy, especially in the US. Walgreens in particular have done a fantastic job of creating a really effective mobile channel to their customers, whilst retaining the all-important simplicity, and their prompted refills app is probably the single highest revenue generator in the whole of mHealth. I’m sorry I missed it but I applaud them for showing what can be done.

Looking ahead for 2015

I’m not going to attempt too much crystal-ball gazing for this year, instead I’ll just suggest that it might be a good idea to take forward some of the lessons from last year:

  • It’s pointless creating solutions that don’t actually do much or look terrible (the wearables challenge)
  • Keeping it simple and giving customers something they can actually use (like Walgreens did) is the way to go

And most of all, we still have a ton of work to do to persuade mainstream consumers and clinicians that this stuff matters – so let’s try to improve our story-telling.

Feel free to add your own scores on 2014 or what you think the major stories of 2015 might be.



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