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Fun with Google and mHealth

Well it’s the last day of summer here in the UK (although it felt like summer ended sometime in July), so I’ve been in a lighter mood than usual. Just for fun I’ve been playing with a favourite website of mine, Google Trends. Some of you may already use it, especially if you’re involved in digital marketing, as it’s a fantastic tool for tracking the relative popularity of Google search terms over time (the data goes back to 2004).

I started playing around looking at the terms I use a lot – first of all looking at mHealth of course. Here’s what I found:

Looking for mHealth

mhealth searches google trends

(source: Google Trends

That’s right, nothing until 2009 then quite a steep rise, and now flattening out (the dotted lines are Google’s forecast of future searches). Co-incidentally 2009 was when I first started to get involved in mHealth, prior to that I’d really known this space as telehealth, however I claim no credit for the inflection point!

The next thing I did was look at telehealth itself:

Looking for telehealth

telehealth searches google

(source: Google Trends

This shows that telehealth has certainly been a mainstream term since at least 2004, and most likely much earlier, but it’s a steadily declining trend.

So what could this mean? I’m only speculating, but since this is only for fun, why not make some wild guesses:

  1. mHealth has gained popularity at the expense of telehealth, simply because mobile is viewed as more modern and adaptable than fixed line communications – even though there is no rule to say that telehealth is solely a fixed line proposition.
  2. The fact that telehealth has declined in popularity, and mHealth is now plateauing, shows that we still have a long way to go in proving the case for these services – otherwise both would have seen a continually rising trend. Yet again I’m reminded of the need to translate the benefits of mHealth into the mainstream, which I’ve written about often.

Where in the world?

The other aspect of Google trends that intrigued me is the section which highlights where in the world the searches come from – the results were surprising:

  1. For mHealth, the highest number of searches came from Egypt, which was 4x the volume from next-placed Russia. USA, India, Canada and UK also featured, but I would never have guessed Egypt was top, although I did work on one project there.
  2. For telehealth, the top countries were Canada, by almost 10x the volume of next-placed Australia, with US, UK and India also featuring again.

So there you have it, unexpectedly Egypt and Canada are leading the world it would seem – I’d love to hear from any readers there who can explain why. Equally I feel like I’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that mHealth really catches on and to elevate my own country up the rankings. Summer’s over, and I suspect the hard work is just beginning.

If you’ve got you own interpretation on this data, please let me know here, or you can always contact me.


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