New Delhi: Even as India attempts to scale up access to e-health, the industry is already talking about the next step in health technology—mobile health, or m-health.
M-health will attempt to go one step further and bring health services right to the mobile phone, with junior doctors functioning in a centre much on the lines of a call centre.
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At the India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum, a varied range of panellists brainstormed on the opportunity that lies in m-health at a session on Shaping India’s Mobile Health Ecosystem.
The global m-health technology market is expected to grow 25% annually, from the current $1.5 billion (Rs10,125 crore) to $4.6 billion by 2014.
“The mobile has transformed the way we work, and broadband and connectivity will provide never before (levels of) communication. This is the start to the best possible technology to bring greater access to healthcare,” said Malvinder Mohan Singh, chairman, RHC Holding India Pvt. Ltd.
While m-health creates a whole world of opportunities in healthcare delivery, the key question is whether it can be a sustainable business model.
Sachin Pilot, minister of state for communications and information technology, said that while the idea of m-health is exciting, the biggest challenge would come in the form of language diversity.
“We must not lose time. This is not one ministry’s job… the IT (information technology) ministry and health ministry have to come together to work on this. At the same time, we must keep in mind that India is a very price-sensitive market, so unless the access to m-health is affordable, it won’t work,” said Pilot.
Sangita Reddy, executive director, operations, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, said the country cannot afford to create silos of capability.
“How do we find a way to create accessibility? We cannot think of just m-health. Before m-health we have to excel in e-health and before that we have to create basic healthcare for all. It has to work in one continuum,” said Reddy.
She added that projects would need to be started on a pilot basis as part of corporate social responsibility, and then, depending on their success, could be scaled up into sustainable business models.
While all the panellists agreed that m-health could be the future of basic healthcare, it would largely depend on building a sustainable business model for e-health with various service and healthcare providers coming together to work on this.
“This can be a sustainable model, but don’t expect an ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization margin) of 80%,” Pilot said.