During a time of sweeping change across the medical technology (MedTech) landscape, the next frontier appears to be mobile health (mHealth), and how management of care through mobile solutions could transform the industry.
The advent of a mHealth channel could be a force that changes business models for the better, making them more adaptive and open to increased innovation. But there are different perceptions about how mHealth is now impacting MedTech and the rate of growth we’re seeing across the industry.
With mHealth as a new segment of MedTech, I suspect the growth rates for the sector will be much higher than what analysts are forecasting, simply because a) mHealth is a new space, and b) it’s often more aligned with high tech than MedTech.
Take wearable technologies. They are players in the mHealth space, yet not everyone thinks about or categorizes them as medical devices. For instance, products from Apple Inc. can serve as mHealth platforms for MedTech, and it’s the peripherals and apps – not the phone itself – that are regulated and classified as medical devices.
Clearly, there is great promise for MedTech companies to benefit from mHealth solutions. A number of important transactions in the past year reflect an emerging confidence in the potential of mHealth.
Medtronic acquired Corventis – the maker of wearable technology that features its cardiac home health monitoring – for $150 million, while St. Jude Medical bought CardioMems, which manufactures a wireless heart failure implantable, in order to help St. Jude accelerate the expansion of its cardiovascular business. Those bold plays are a sign not only of confidence, but are likely an investment – financial and strategic – in the future. And they are the tip of the iceberg.
In determining the strategic value of mHealth solutions, organizations considering similar transactions or initiating their lines of business should consider the following factors:
Grasp the full potential of mHealth and how it applies to the business. Should it be driven at the corporate, business unit, or product development level? That can determine the extent of a company’s strategic and technology investment, and how it’s coordinated to provide a consistent experience for both patients and providers.
Target treatable diseases and conditions. The organization should identify specific solutions and how they can provide value in a patient’s journey. In doing so, it can lead to higher reimbursements that build the opportunity for commercial success and wider patient acceptance.
Collaborate with industry (and non-industry) partners. Developing mechanisms that incorporate mHealth solutions, a company can leverage new technology, complementary commercial and regulatory expertise, and explore new paths of innovation. The cellphone is an organizing principle, and telecom industries are leveraging new platforms and systems to engage consumers in health care management.
Keep on top of the evolving regulatory environment. In addition to the FDA, a number of other agencies will likely become more involved in oversight, product review, and applying new enforcement standards, including the Federal Trade Commission. That could impact business models, product development, and marketing strategies. Organizations should consider developing a multi-faceted regulatory process.
Tap into emerging markets. In undeveloped and emerging markets, connecting the provider and patient electronically is a promising alternative to patient treatment systems that are remote and challenging. MedTech companies working with new strategies and business partners can address patient access challenges and improve health outcomes in a more cost-effective manner.
The momentum toward mHealth as a critical element of MedTech is gaining. It is a time of new opportunity for organizations to collaborate and innovate. Those that seize such opportunities are likely to reach the new frontier sooner than their competitors.