The number of individuals using mHealth information services is set to exceed 157 million users by 2020, more than tripling the 50 million for last year, according to a new study from Juniper Research. However, the researchers say growth is being inhibited by commercial barriers.
The new research, Worldwide Digital Health: Developed and Emerging Market Opportunities 2016-2020, forecasts that the adoption of mHealth information services will significantly increase as service providers roll out initiatives to tackle issues such as infant mortality and infectious diseases. SMS, apps and IVR (Interactive Voice Response) services are providing vital information to those who cannot access general healthcare services.
Bridging the healthcare gap
The research highlighted initiatives such as the MOTECH Foundation, which aims to implement preventative healthcare by educating the population on issues such as sexual health and pregnancy. Juniper found that limited access to connected devices and low literacy rates had resulted in many mHealth services being offered through contact centers.
The research found that several organizations had adopted a crowdsourcing approach to develop solutions to address the challenges of engaging with and delivering information to end users. It cited Unicef’s Wearables for Good competition as a case in point, which resulted in Khushi Baby, a wearable device containing an individual’s health information.
The research also argues that open source platforms such as Mobile Medic will act as game-changers for emerging markets over the coming years as healthcare workers seek more effective means of service provision in remote areas.
Barriers to deployment
However, Juniper claimed that growth would be markedly higher than anticipated were it not for the “significant commercial barriers to deployment in most markets”. It argues that many current offerings were exclusively donor-funded, and that only a few services – such as Wazazi Nipendeni in Tanzania were based on sustainable business models.
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