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mHealth Myths and Reality part 2

For part 2 of the discussion on ‘mHealth Myths and Realities’ I want to move on to the myth of the device. For some reason mHealth project owners keep trying to identify the knockout mobile device that will be ‘perfect’ for mHealth. Whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy or Windows phone, there is always an amount of hype proclaiming ‘this device will be ideally suited for mHealth’. They’re wasting their time, and here’s why:

  1. By choosing to base your development on a single device you are locking in to that device’s development roadmap. Remember that mobile phone manufacturers are primarily driven by the consumer market which is essentially a fashion industry, and this year’s hot model is tomorrow’s recycling opportunity. 4574523_sLook at what happened when Sanofi based the iBGStar BGM on the iPhone connector, and Apple changed the connector on the iPhone 5. In the words of Hanspeter Spek, who was Sanofi’s President of International Operations at the time: “To give you a little anecdote, we have been totally hit by the fact that the latest iPhone, does no more fit into our IBGStar device, which is a way of marketing of the iPhone inventors. So we had to learn this the hard way, and the next time, we know it.”
  2. You can never pick a winner. You may fervently believe (and you will probably be strongly influenced by your personal attachment) that the iPhone/Android/Windows phone is the best thing ever, but the world won’t agree. Look at what happened to Blackberry, which at one time was the world’s most popular smartphone.
  3. By making your development device-specific, you’re making it much more likely that you will have to pay for and provide that device to the intended users – because guess what, mobile users don’t seem to like changing their devices (and are often locked into contracts anyway).

 Oh, but aren’t all doctors avid iPhone users so it’s a safe bet? So what about all the other stakeholders in the mHealth ecosystem, like patients who don’t have iPhones (the majority)? What does it say about your ‘access to medicine’ policy if you are going to cut all those other users out?  

So what’s the reality? I would strongly recommend that mHealth projects are built on a device-agnostic basis. Why make yourself a hostage to the smartphone market’s fortunes and design decisions?

Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Work out who all the intended stakeholders are. What sort of connectible device do they have access to – basic phone/smartphone/PC internet etc?
  2. Design your project with those key users in mind – so you probably need to have something heterogeneous (eg use HTML5  to allow mobile internet from multiple devices if you have a population of smartphone users) or really simple, like SMS for an audience who mainly have simple phones.

 But whatever you do, don’t fall in love with a single device. Trust me, there’ll be an even ‘better’ one along tomorrow. Alternatively, if you think you’ve found the ‘perfect’ device I’d love to hear about it – please comment here or contact me.


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