Businesses have been talking about mHealth solutions since 2009 when wide adoption of smartphones, tablets, and wearables reached a critical mass.
The term mHealth was coined in 2006 by Robert Istepanian to describe “emerging mobile communications and network technologies for healthcare”.
Over a decade later, the mobile healthcare industry is getting ready for a wave of big changes. There are all kinds of signs:
- Apple and Samsung announcing serious mHealth initiatives
- Blockchain technology advances
- Quantified Self movement and abundance of fitness & wellness mobile apps
Source: Research 2 Guidance
Consumer-Focused mHealth Apps
In January Apple announced their partnership with 12 leading U.S. hospitals where they will be developing personal health records (PHR) systems. Patients from the participating hospitals will be able to review their PHRs, get updates, etc. right on their iPhones.
Samsung, in its turn, has just unveiled its next flagman at the Mobile World Congress. The Galaxy S9 smartphone will bear an advanced optical sensor for the improved measuring of blood pressure. The company said they are partnering with the University of California, San Francisco that will conduct a new large-scale study on stress using the blood pressure readings.
By and large, mHealth innovations require a solid app-powered framework. No wonder even such tech luminaries as Apple and Samsung rely on their own mHealth apps. These mobile health applications work as hubs for the user’s health-related data.
In fact, the data accumulated by the mobile health apps is the cornerstone for the modern consumer-focused mHealth solutions. Current big-data technologies allow for comprehensive analysis of massive health data.
According to a research by Rock Health, a venture fund and research firm dedicated to digital health, 2017 was the record-smashing year for digital health, with venture funding approaching $6B.
On the chart below you can see that eHealth businesses focusing on consumer health data got most of the funding.
Source: Rock Health
Users’ mHealth Data Belongs to Who?
The data that mHealth solutions accumulate is something that everybody craves: healthcare organizations, drug manufacturers, regulators, government, and last but not least the end users.
Not being able to fully control your own data, especially one that is as valuable as healthcare data, provides too little incentive for the users to flock to mHealth applications. After all, it does feel a little like being a lab rat for big-boy companies.
Businesses are constantly seeking new ways to attract users to use their mHealth solutions. The most recent initiatives include innovative blockchain-based mHealth solutions that stimulate consumers by offering various rewards for engaging in sports activities.
mHealth Solutions: Trend-Setting Apps
The recent years introduced us to a whole new class of mHealth solutions that put the user front and center of this health data equation by giving them full control over their data. This, however, is not the most progressive feature of these apps.
The new thing is paying or rewarding users to get them to use your mHealth app and feed the app with their healthcare-related data.
It’s not like these mHealth solutions will make users rich, not even in their lifetime, but it definitely looks like these incentivizing, health-oriented apps get phenomenal interest from the crowd. Let’s take a look a closer look at some of these trend-setting mHealth solutions.
Sweatcoin, a London-based start-up, has recently raised $5.7 million in a funding round bringing its total funding to $6.3 million. The company pays users in cryptocurrency for the steps they register within a Sweatcoin mobile app: 1000 steps equals 0.95 sweatcoins.
Users can spend their hard-earned coins on a wide array of goods and services ranging from yoga classes to sports shoes, iPhones, and Apple Watches. They can also opt to donate to partnering charities.
“The team at Sweatcoin have experienced phenomenal growth since launch… and have created a new, powerful ‘Movement Economy’ that rewards people…”
— Reshma Sohoni, Co-Founder of Seedcamp
Sweatcoin is currently working on expanding their geography beyond UK, Ireland, and the US. One of Sweatcoin’s co-founders confirmed that they are working on a blockchain solution that will allow users to trade sweatcoins just as any other crypto- or fiat currency.
Achievement goes a step further. Just as Sweatcoin, the company operates off the mobile apps that record users’ activities through integration with a plethora of fitness apps. However, Achievement users get payments to their PayPal accounts or via direct deposits.
Apparently, achievers can get paid for such activities as yoga, meditation, and healthy sleep in addition to the number of steps. The service is currently available only in the US and boasts over 1.5 million active members.
“So far we’ve paid out over $500,000 to our members and there is no limit to how much you can earn.”
Achievement’s mother company, Evidation Health, is a technology and services company that helps individuals and the world’s most advanced healthcare companies understand and influence the everyday behaviors by performing health-related researches.
Achievement customers may receive bonus offers for participating in the studies and research by Evidation Health. In 2017 the company conducted research in Asthma, Diabetes, and Mental Health, to name just a few.
Lympo is yet another mHealth-based start-up that is emerging on the crossroad of cutting-edge technologies: mHealth and blockchain. Like Sweatcoin and Achievement, Lympo is primarily focused on user-generated health data; with a special accent on the “user-controlled” aspect of it.
Dubbed by its creators as a “healthy lifestyle ecosystem powered by user-generated and user-controlled sports and wellness data”, Lympo is more than mobile apps gathering health-related data.
Lympo relies on the blockchain technology to create:
- Cryptowallets where users will be getting LYM coins
- Marketplace with health goods and services
- Crowdfunding platform to invest in state-of-the-art data-driven companies
Again, the main incentive is to allow users of the Lympo mHealth app to earn a virtual currency that they can then spend on health-related good and services. The data gathered will be obviously used for research purposes. Here’s how they describe a typical use-case:
The company started out in Lithuania and now is expanding to US and Australia. The ICO sale is closing in February-March 2018, and we can expect some major moves in the nearest future. This mHealth development initiative is off to a great start to disrupt the eHealth industry.
mHealth Data Challenge
One major issue all the above-mentioned apps address is data interoperability. mHealth market is very segmented. There are so many app providers offering a specific set of features and lacking other health parameters that it may be a real challenge for a newcomer to pick, let’s say, an app for running.
mHealth apps also usually focus on gathering some particular health information. While Apple and Samsung manage this to a certain degree with their Health apps that strive to operate as the hubs for users’ health data, a lot of the health data remains scattered among all sorts of mHealth apps:
- Health education and awareness
- Diagnostic and treatment apps
- Lifestyle improvement apps
- Point of care diagnostic apps
- Disease and epidemic outbreak tracking
- Remote health monitoring
- Pills and medicines reminders
- Telemedicine apps
- Patient portal apps
There is little incentive for mHealth service providers to integrate their solutions as every stakeholder is interested in monetizing users’ data. Blockchain-powered initiatives by the likes of Lympo might be a good attempt at liberating this health data and distributing it to all involved parties. This will ensure steady progress for health care where everyone benefits.
Time to Map Out Your mHealth Strategy
Looking back at 2017 results in digital health funding, the year of 2018 certainly promises to be ripe with healthcare innovations. A large chunk of these innovations will come from mHealth solutions empowered by the blockchain technology. Have you already thought about your mHealth strategy for the year?