MTN and Telefonica call for mHealth partnerships - Mobile World Live

MTN and Telefonica call for mHealth partnerships

08 JUN 2011

LIVE FROM THE GSMA-mHA MOBILE HEALTH SUMMIT:Two large but very diverse mobile operators – MTN and Telefonica – both agreed in this morning’s keynote session that partnerships with various players in the value chain are necessary if mHealth is to grow beyond test pilots into a mainstream global opportunity.

Christian De Faria, SVP, Commercial & Innovation, at African operator giant MTN, talked of the company’s strategy to work with Sanlam Health as its strategic partner in developing and implementing mHealth initiatives across all of the operator’s 21 networks. While MTN brings infrastructure, distribution reach and a “service mindset” to the table, De Faria said that Sanlam brings core medical knowledge and an understanding of the local medical operating environment.

“We can sell airtime well but we are not specialists in healthcare – our philosophy is to partner with companies that know,” commented De Faria. “We have to complement each other and be respectful of the regulatory environment in every country. By partnering we know that the service we provide will be reliable and up to standard.”

With pilots up and running in countries such as Ghana and South Africa, De Faria claimed that “mHealth is not a question of if or when, it is already happening. It is a must.” He said that the operator has defined “a long roadmap” for its mHealth plans, noting that “on a new journey there are always fears from different corners of the market. Why is an operator getting into this? But it is a natural evolution of the market.”

Meanwhile Carlos Martinez Miguel – Head of Strategic Analysis & Planning at Spanish and Latin American operator Telefonica’s Global Healthcare division – claimed that “network operators can be the ideal ‘travel companions’ for healthcare systems and providers.” Stating that “strategic partners are required” for all mHealth initiatives, Miguel said operators make good partners due to their experience in communications as well as customer service. “We have the ability to invest and offer end-to-end managed services.”

However, Miguel stressed that there is no intention from the operator community to replace the role of the medical profession. “Medical professionals must lead the change – they have to be involved from the beginning and consider technology as an aid, not as a threat.”

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