LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE ASIA CONGRESS 2011: The Asia Pacific mobile health market will be worth US$7 billion by 2017 but individual countries will require different approaches while scaling obstacles that need to be overcome.
A joint GSMA and PwC report entitled ‘Mobile Health – Enabling Healthcare’ forecasts that the mHealth market in Asia Pacific will experience a 70 percent compound annual growth rate over the next six years.
China is expected to be the biggest market worth US$2.4 billion, largely due to its vast population, while Japan follows with US$1.3 billion and India at US$540 million. Monitoring services will account for 55 percent of total market share, followed by diagnostics at 24 percent.
With both emerging and developed markets present in the Asia Pacific region, PwC telecoms industry leader Mohammad Chowdhury said at Mobile Asia Congress this week that different approaches are needed for different markets. Developing countries, which lack resources to provide sufficient healthcare, will focus more on diagnostics. The research suggests that 67 percent of the mHealth revenue in India will be derived from diagnostics due to the significant rural populations with poor healthcare access.
China will also be a significant market for diagnostics due to the widely spread population with poor health access. Australia’s low population density also makes it a market ripe for mHealth diagnostics technology.
Asia Pacific countries with higher GDP, better access to healthcare and ageing populations, will have a different focus. Japan will be a major market for monitoring technologies – estimated to make up 63 percent of the market by 2017 – due to the growing elderly proportion of the population with long-term ailments.
Chowdhury said the greater use of mHealth should reduce the strain on healthcare for the elderly as well as the tax burden created by an ageing population, due to the efficiencies it could potentially create.
“The demand for healthcare for the older populations is rising so rapidly that even though spending is rising, it’s not keeping up. There is an opportunity for mHealth to reduce the healthcare budget of governments and improve the efficacy of healthcare provided for older patients,” he said.
However, the situation is likely to change, with some countries currently with a high incidence of communicable diseases moving to a higher incidence of non-communicable diseases, over the next few years, requiring different approaches. “The underlying ground in some of these countries will be shifting in the next few years,” Chowdhury said.
There remain obstacles related to the scaling and uptake of mHealth services, according to Chowdhury. Despite mHealth initiatives going live, PwC has found that just one out of 20 deployments have been scaled to more than one million users. “Some things do go live, but the real challenge is going beyond that into wider penetration. Now the issue is how do we scale that further?”
In order to scale deployments, there needs to be buy-in from the medical profession combined with government regulation, according to Chowdhury.
“The regulatory environment is relatively benign but is not yet enabling and pushing the adoption of mHealth. So we think the inflection point will be when those policy moves become more mature. Adoption of mHealth is something that hasn’t really happened in the medical profession on a broad scale,” Chowdhury said.
“We hope that adoption happens, enablement happens and regulation that will not choke the opportunity, but will make it sensible, happens,” he added.