Tons of Innovation on stage at yesterday’s mHealth meeting

Author: Derek Kerton, Managing Partner at Kerton Group and Chairman of Telecom Council



80 Telecom Council members and guests (list here) diagnosed mHealth yesterday at Hitachi Data Systems…and the prognosis is good. The patient is recovering well from a case of chronic regulatory delay and the horrible affliction known as “entrenched methods”.







At the Council, we’ve been hearing great ideas about mHealth for over a decade now. The promise of mHealth hasn’t changed much over that decade:

  • increased access, both here and in developing nations
  • almost cost-free access to health education and information
  • reduced cost of access to Doctors and practitioners
  • increased efficiency, better use of skilled human resources through “remoting”
  • reduced costs of administering healthcare
  • better patient compliance with meds prescriptions
  • lower hospital recidivism
  • effective “Body metrics” like glucose and cardiac data
  • wearables for health and wellness
  • big data, cloud, and analytics benefits

So of course those same decade-old ideas featured prominently in the subject matter of our Deep Dive. The difference seems to be a matter of traction. And this good news is hard to overstate, so I’ll put it in bold, center it, and grab your eye with it below.

The wait is over. Based on the presentations we heard from the companies doing mHealth, they have moved out of the “ideas” phase, overcome the regulatory hurdles, blasted through some barriers of entrenched practices, and are delivering on real deals across the Health Industry, and generating Billions in revenue.

We’ve seen the same with various aspects of mobile and telecom. We needed to talk about LBS for about a decade before it arrived. Remember the “When will we see LBS” panels from 2005? Yes, that was really a thing. Now LBS is so thoroughly embedded in our pockets we might take it for granted. Same for mobile Internet, with a decade of talk followed by a rush of adoption. The reason for these decade-long delays is a combination of the hurdles, which are no small hops: regulatory, technical, standards, ecosystem building, devices, and last but not least, human behavior modification. But back to mHealth.

In my introductory remarks at the meeting, I noted that early progress in mHealth was disproportionately happening in Africa, due to looser regulations, and people in stark need of health services. But that now, that trend was reversing and innovation is shifting back towards the developed nations. Regulatory hurdles have been crossed, and the FDA even issued guidelines last month indicating a light-handed approach to health-oriented apps. I noted Mercom data showing mHealth got $282 million in VC funding in Q1 2015, and over $2 billion total since 2010. Funding primarily went apps, then wearable hardware, the wireless solutions. Berg Insight’s data shows that 4.9 million people use self-monitoring services through mobile in 2015, with a CAGR of about 50% yoy from 2012 through 2020.

My presentation’s conclusion was more cautionary: Silicon Valley has a tendency to invent lots of things of value for the world…but the first versions tend to be “geeked out”. That is, overly technical, and not attractive to normal human beings. A great example is the very nature of the term “Quantified Self”. How the hell do we sell that concept to the rest of America, or the world? That is geek speak, overly technical, and IF our listeners understand the term itself, most people will still not have an appreciation of the value of data, trend data, and analytics that are essential to making Quantified Self an attractive idea. Silicon Valley needs to make the solutions palatable to the average person, described in their terms, with a focus on value, and with a value that greatly exceeds the costs, including the expensive costs of behavior modification (like charging a smartwatch every night).

Our meeting also featured a keynote from our host. Dave Wilson, CTO of Health and Life Sciences Business at Hitachi Data Systems showed us the value of a strong middleware to bring together the disparate silos of health data, systems, devices, etc. Without a powerful middleware, we cannot unlock the value of eHealth or mHealth. Our Panel discussion featured Karthik Ranjan, of ARM, and James Pyers of Qualcomm Life. Karthik focused on the importance of security to ensure privacy, and ARMs efforts to provide it down to the chip level. Think security and privacy at the start, and then throughout solution development, said Ranjan. Pyers spoke about mobile’s ability to extend healthcare, democratize it, and provide better care for everyone with improvements at all demographic layers.

As usual, we closed with a quick look at 10 great startups in the mHealth space, demonstrating solutions as diverse as administering healthcare to astronauts on the space station all the way to using big data analytics to improve the quality of care we offer people trying to “age in place”. A big thanks to all our innovators and our demo table companies for bringing the fresh ideas.




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