Do the numbers work for mobile health? ask mhealth participants - Mobile World Live

Do the numbers work for mobile health? ask mhealth participants

29 FEB 2012

Live from Mobile World Congress: Yesterday’s conference saw a lively debate between participants on whether business models for mobile health stack up in emerging markets.

“It’s a business and has to be a profitable business. At the same time we have to be sensitive. Customers expect affordable mhealth services,” said Manoj Kohli, CEO International & Joint MD, Bharti Airtel, during the panel session. If a service only costs the consumer 10 US cents that sum has to be split between doctors and other service providers as well as mobile operators, said Kohli. “I think it’s possible .If we make high-volume mass-market services then all partners will make money.”

Tim Wood, Director, Mobile Health Innovation, Grameen Foundation, agreed the mass market is important but said mobile health services in some sub-Saharan countries services were not sustainable.

Alternatively, governments will see sufficient benefits from mhealth to invest in it. Wood said that was not yet the case. He said health ministries were “very far” from spending US$2 on a messaging campaign rather the same amount on conventional treatment.
“I think it can be done. Working closely with ministries is one way to it,” commented Debra Sloane, Director, Global Public Sector Healthcarre, Cisco, on how to make the mhealth business sustainable.

Finding the incentives to invest are also important. As Dirk Roets, GEO, GeoMed, pointed out: “The bigger picture is that the people who will benefit most from the system don’t have the money to pay for it.”

Mobile operators also need to be more responsive, regardless of questions of scale, to setting up services. “There are real barriers, real basic things. It shouldn’t be hard to roll out services but it took a year to get a shortcode from an operator,” said Gustav Praekelt, founder and CEO, Praekelt Foundation.

Praekelt declined to identify the culprit although he said it was not one of the major operator groups.

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Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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