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Mobile technology can lower healthcare costs: PricewaterhouseCoopers

Mobile technology holds great promise for keeping people healthy, managing diseases and lowering healthcare costs, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers? Health Research Institute.

The mobile industry is packed with new applications, devices and services that are helping people connect better to their health. Forty percent of consumers surveyed by the Health Research Institute said they would pay for mobile healthcare services.

?Mobile technology is untethering healthcare and enabling the practice of care anywhere,? the report says. ?Mobile health is creating business models that unlock access to new players and technologies that support preventative, acute and chronic care.?

Mobile Internet booming
The mobile Internet market is growing exponentially. However, healthcare solutions are still trying to fit in. 

PricewaterhouseCoopers finds that 8 percent of American adults have mobile Internet access. The mobile Internet market is being driven by faster connection speeds and better handsets.

The next generation of mobile technology will support downloads up to 7 megabytes per second (compared to the current 1.5Mbps). With the number of broadband households in the United States projected to increase from 75.6 million in 2009 to 113.8 million in 2014, more information will be able to be exchanged at the home.

To date, more than 10,000 medical and healthcare/fitness-related applications are available for download to smartphones and hundreds of other devices.

Paying for mobile health
Forty percent of consumers surveyed by the Healthcare Research Institute said they would pay for remote monitoring devices and a monthly service fee to send data automatically to their doctors.

?The basic phenomena is a very powerful machine that is always networked and on the person,? said John Glaser, former chief information officer of Partner Healthcare, Malvern, PA. ?The key difference is on the person.

?Right now, mobile activities are concentrating on extending the range of existing applications,? he said. ?You need to start from the need and build up?mobile could be an avenue or it may not be.?

Mobile phones are a ubiquitous device to inform and activate consumers, according to the Healthcare Research Institute.

SMS is popular
SMS has really picked up momentum, with almost 80 percent of Medicaid patients texting regularly, the highest rate of all other insured and uninsured individuals.

Only half of the consumers surveyed said they would buy mobile technology for their health, so it is important to know who these consumers are.

Of those, 20 percent said they would use mobile to monitor fitness or wellbeing and 18 percent want their doctors to monitor their health conditions.

While 40 percent of respondents would be willing to pay for a monthly mobile phone service or device that could send information to their doctor, they would prefer to pay less than $10 monthly and less than $75 for the device.

?For consumers, mobile is a synonym for independence,? said Yan Chow, director of the Innovation and Advanced Technology Group at Kaiser Permanente, Pleasanton, CA. ?I think that the ability to be independent and get data when and where you need it gives consumers a lot of freedom.

?Having consumers be at the center of their own care is a concept Kaiser has been working with for a long time,? he said. ?It gives us the chance to build a new relationship with our members.?

Click here to see the entire PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute study on mobile healthcare.

Final take
Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor of Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily