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The mHealth Hype Cycle

I’m doing a talk in London next week on the topic ‘mHealth – hope or hype?’ which prompted me to think of one of my favourite concepts known as ‘the Gartner hype cycle’, and I’d like to discuss it with you today.

For those of you who aren’t already familiar, Gartner are a renowned technology industry analyst, relied upon by many C-level executives around the world for their insight. They’ve invented a number of toolsets to help classify their research, one of which is ‘the Hype Cycle’. It’s basically a different way of looking at technology adoption cycles, but instead of looking at who is adopting it alludes to their perceptions. You can see the basic layout in the chart below.


mhealth hype cycle

Source: Gartner

mHealth’s ups and downs

It’s remarkable that any emerging technology seems to follow this pattern, and what it means is that until you get through the scary part called ‘the trough of disillusionment’ you don’t really have a business. Now Gartner do detailed studies of technology segments but haven’t done one for mHealth as we speak so I thought I’d take a stab at this and ask you for your own thoughts.

My personal view is that we reached the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ some time ago, probably around 2010. At that stage we were full of blind optimism that mHealth would change everything and solve the palpable problems we faced in terms of excess demand for healthcare and insufficient funding. We didn’t know how it would work, but if felt right.

Since that point we started to slide down towards the ‘trough of disillusionment’, for a couple of reasons:

  1. We couldn’t see enough mHealth ‘in action’. Too much of the activity was in small pilots or under the covers, in larger programmes that would take a long time to reach the market.
  2. There was gathering momentum for a (false) assertion that there was no evidence in favour of mHealth, spiking around the publication of results for the Whole System Demonstrator pilot in the UK.

Things can only get better…

I now believe that we have reached the bottom of the trough and are now turning up onto the ‘slope of enlightenment’. I say this because I think the momentum is turning positive again, but based on real business models:

  1. We have a serious consumer/wellness market building
  2. Clinicians are taking the lead and becoming role models
  3. Medical device companies are finally deploying those connected devices
  4. We’ve realised that there is compelling evidence available, from the VHA and others – although it’s still tricky to find sometimes.

So this is good news I feel, it means that we’re finally understanding what really works in mHealth. Then again, it’s a subjective view and you may think differently. So please do comment here or contact me to send me your views privately.

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