Mobile Health needs some Medical Pornography

If you’ve been working in Mobile Health or telecare, you’re probably frustrated by the slow progress being made in bringing products to market.  Whilst analysts like research2guidance see a rosy future, more down to earth reviews, such as the recent 2020health report “Healthcare without walls: Delivering telehealth at scale”, and Frost & Sullivan’s “E- Healthcare Initiatives in the United Kingdom” continue to point out that very few projects have scaled up past a few tens of users. 

Many reasons are put forward for that, ranging from the natural inertia of the medical industry, the barriers imposed by regulators, through to the difficulty in persuading doctors to hand over disease management to their patients.

Technology has been blamed in the past, but that’s no longer a valid reason.  Over recent years there have been major advances in sensors, wireless connectivity and processing power.  We certainly don’t have solutions to every problem, but there is a wide range of conditions where mHealth could provide significant benefits.  So what’s holding it back?

Next week the Mobile Health Industry Review at the King’s Fund in London will be bringing experts and VCs together to talk about business models.  I’ll be suggesting that mHealth isn’t the first industry to have suffered from this phenomenon.  Even for disruptive technologies, it often needs an unexpected and sometimes even unconnected industry to invent and develop a new application in order to drive things to a point where the disruption can be taken up and embraced by others.  One of the classic cases is the Internet.  Much of the development of streaming, payment mechanisms and user interface was driven by the porn industry.  Once that work was done, it was adopted by others, giving us the e-commerce, video streaming and compelling content that we now expect from every site. 

So, if Mobile Health is going to get anywhere it probably needs to follow the same course and forget about conventional medical thinking, (which generally involves a doctor), and embrace some more disruptive models.  To put it more bluntly, we need to find out what the equivalent of pornography is for healthcare.

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