United Arab Emirates mobile operator du and its partner Mobile Doctors 24-7 International have signed up 130,000 subscribers to the physician helpline service they launched in April with 80 percent of the new customers coming through a B2B approach to the mobile health market that targets insurance companies and corporate clients, the operator has told Mobile Health Live.
The UAE-based operator has struck agreements with two insurance companies who will offer the Mobile Doctors service to its policyholders. In addition, du will offer the service to its own employees. It also wants to seek out other corporations who will pay to offer the service to their employees. The operator's partner Mobile Doctors 24-7 International is an mhealth specialist.
The remaining 20 percent of the 130,000 figure is accounted for by the operator's own customers who pay to take the new service that gives access to round-the-clock medical advice. Users can sign up via SMS or online.
The vast majority of new B2B customers are from the two insurance companies rather than du's own staff.
Establishing a reimbursement model is central to the success of mobile health services. Selling direct to end-users is the more straightforward model but arguably working through third parties such as insurance companies has greater potential. Examples of the latter approach are so far thin on the ground in the mobile industry.
As well as other insurance companies and corporate customers, du is looking at healthcare providers as possible customers for the helpline. In a less predictable move for the mobile health market, it is also considering at how to include its service with loyalty programmes so that for instance a customer who takes a particular credit card might get du’s mhealth service as an additional benefit.
Santanu Biswas, du’s Director of eHealth Services, told Mobile Health Live that the operator’s plans go further than its physician helpline. “This is not the end of it. Now we have a 24/7 contact centre I can offer any number of mhealth services whether they are content-based or data-based and I can always say to the customer if you have any doubts or need clarification then talk to a doctor.”
Biswas says the idea is to bundle newly-launched helpline with its other mobile health offering, an SMS-based advice service the operator launched in May 2011.Then du can offer a single package of the services to households. This might happen in one or two months says Biswas. The aim is to add other mhealth services into the package in the future as they become available. The operator is trialling a home monitoring service for chronic conditions such as diabetes which could also be added to the package. Again the aim is to add this service into the package once it becomes available. The strategy is to target all the likely health concerns of family members and offer a single package to address them all.
Finally du has a wider services partnership with Vodafone. It is now discussing on adopting a mobile health service from Vodafone that du wants to launch in UAE. The service is targeted at the pharmaceutical sector although Biswas would not offer further details.