Consumers Are Ready to Adopt Mobile Health Faster than the Health Industry is Prepared to Adapt, Finds PwC Study on Global mHealth Adoption

India ranks 2nd among developing countries studied on maturity for mHealth adoption

Widespread adoption of mobile technology in healthcare, or mHealth, is now viewed as inevitable by more than half of doctors and healthcare payers in developed and emerging markets around the world, including 60% in India.  The pace of adoption will likely be led by emerging markets that rank highest among ten countries on a score of mHealth maturity, according to a new global study conducted for PwC Global Healthcare by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).  

The ground breaking study, Emerging mHealth: paths for growth, found that consumers have high expectations for mHealth, particularly in developing economies as mobile cellular subscriptions there become ubiquitous.  In emerging markets, consumers perceive mHealth as a way to increase access to healthcare while patients in developed markets see it as a way to improve the convenience, cost and quality of healthcare.

According to PwC, if the promise of mHealth is realized by consumers, the impact on healthcare delivery could be significant and fundamentally alter traditional relationships within the healthcare industry.  The use of mHealth and speed of adoption will be determined in each country by stakeholders’ response to mHealth as a disruptive innovation to overcome structural impediments and align interests around patients’ needs and expectations.

David Levy, MD, Global Healthcare Leader, PwC, said:

“Despite demand and the obvious potential benefits of mHealth, rapid adoption is not yet occurring.  The main barriers are not the technology but rather systemic to healthcare and inherent resistance to change.  Though many people think mobile health will be ancillary or bolted on to the healthcare industry, we look at it differently:  mHealth is the future of healthcare, deeply integrated into delivery that will be better, faster, less expensive and far more customer-focused.”

In the report, the EIU examines the current state and potential of mHealth (defined as the provision of healthcare or health-related information through the use of mobile devices) and the barriers to adoption and opportunities for companies seeking growth in the mHealth market.  

The report provides an assessment of the maturity for mHealth adoption based on four pillars -- awareness, regulatory and reimbursement issues, technology and relative impact of mHealth on the market in ten countries:  Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, India, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US. 

India ranked among developing countries in its maturity for mHealth adoption.  

The report also includes findings of two surveys conducted by the EIU:  one of consumers and one of physicians and government and private payers across all ten markets.  The consumer survey found:

  • Roughly one-half of consumers in all markets and 60% of consumers in India predict that within the next three years, mHealth will improve the convenience, cost and quality of their healthcare
  • Fifty-nine percent of all emerging market patients use at least one mHealth application or service, compared with 35 percent in the developed world.  Nearly half of consumers said they expect mHealth will change the way they manage chronic conditions (48 percent), their medication (48 percent) and their overall health (49 percent).  Six in ten consumers (59 percent) expect mHealth to change the way they seek information on health issues and 48 percent expect it to change the way they communicate with physicians
  • Among consumers who already are using mHealth services, 59 percent said they have replaced some visits to doctors or nurses  
  • The top three reasons consumers want to use mHealth is to have more convenient access to their doctor or healthcare provider (46 percent), to reduce out-of-pocket healthcare costs (43 percent) and to take greater control over their health (32 percent)
  • Sixty percent of consumers said they believe doctors are not as interested in mHealth as patients and technology companies are

The study found that physicians and payers are more cautious than consumers in their outlook for mHealth. Specifically:

  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of doctors and payers said that mHealth offers exciting possibilities but there are too few proven business models.  In addition, the effectiveness of mHealth changing patient behaviour is evolving.  For example, more than two-thirds of consumer respondents who have used mHealth wellness or fitness applications with manual data entry discontinued it after the first six months.
  • Only 27 percent of physicians encourage patients to use mHealth applications to become more active in managing their health, and 13 percent of physicians actually discourage it.
  • Forty-two percent of doctors surveyed worry that mHealth will make patients too independent. 
  • Payers appear to be far more supportive of mHealth than physicians.  Forty percent of payers compared to 25 percent of physicians encourage patients to let doctors monitor their health and activities using mHealth services and devices. 
  • Payers and providers both cited multiple barriers to the adoption of mHealth, notably the complexity and scope of change associated with mHealth.  In India, the biggest barriers cited by physicians in the adoption of mobile health were lack of interest by key users, culture of medical professionals and lack of information on mhealth
  • Forty-five percent of doctors and payers said that the application of inappropriate regulations originally developed for earlier technologies is slowing the adoption of mHealth
  • More than one quarter – 27 percent of doctors and 26 percent of payers – cite an inherently conservative culture as a leading barrier to the adption of mHealth

Dr.Rana Mehta, Healthcare Leader, PWC India said:

“The adoption of mobile health in emerging markets like India versus developed markets is a paradox.  In developed markets, mHealth is perceived as disrupting the status quo, whereas in emerging countries it is seen as creating a new market, full of opportunities and growth potential.  In younger, developing economies, healthcare is less constrained by healthcare infrastructure and entrenched interests. Consumers are more likely to use mobile devices and mHealth applications, and more payers are willing to cover the cost of mHealth services.”

According to PwC, innovators seeking opportunities in mHealth, including telecommunications and technology companies, must work to overcome the barriers slowing widespread adoption of mHealth.  They can help to alleviate healthcare’s resistance to change by focusing less on the technology and more on effective, customer-focused solutions that add value for health organizations and patient quality of life.

In its analysis, PwC identifies strategic considerations for companies active in the mHealth arena. In addition, PwC will publish a series of insights over the next several months on the evolving mHealth landscape with perspective on what it means for stakeholders, including government and regulators, pharmaceutical and life science companies, payers and providers.

A full copy of the EIU report is available for download at www.pwc.com/mhealth.  

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