Is Australia ready for mobile health?

The increased rate of smartphone penetration among healthcare professionals, coupled with the Australian government initiatives are factors driving mHealth growth in Australia.

Australia currently only has about 4 beds per thousand people and a medical workforce of about 70,000 working clinicians. This is despite the tremendous development of hospital infrastructure,

Analyst, Frost & Sullivan, claims a key issue in Australian healthcare is access to timely and quality care, a problem that can potentially be addressed by enhancing and improving communication between providers and patients using mobile health (mHealth).

The company estimates almost 15,000,000 Australians are connected through a smartphone. The increased rate of smartphone penetration among healthcare professionals, coupled with the Australian government initiatives are factors driving mHealth growth in Australia.

New research by Frost & Sullivan, Analysis of Mobile Health (mHealth) Market in Australia, has found that in the market was worth $US1.4 billion in 2014. It is estimated to rise to $US2.18 billion in 2019 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.3 per cent during this period. The study covers clinical and non-clinical segments mHealth apps and services, but not devices.

Healthcare providers in Australia are focusing on integrating care across various points of service to more comprehensively understand health problems at both an individual and a population level. As such, the next generation healthcare delivery system in the country is expected to bring care to homes and provide a more patient centric approach that requires high level of patient engagement in the continuum of care.

The emerging out-of-hospital-setting-care trend and the increase of smartphone use among clinicians and patients show signs of mHealth propelling in Australia in the near future and bringing care delivery system to a whole new level.

Frost & Sullivan Connected Health Industry analyst, Shalani Andria, said healthcare providers and mHealth companies believe mHealth can play a vital role in the Australian healthcare system and envision mobile technologies to play a far more important role than even improving healthcare access.

mHealth not only improves information access across various stakeholders, it also encourages the information holder to manage and action upon the data. This improves patient engagement and makes consumers more actively involved in managing their health, and has been a key driver for mHealth adoption amongst consumers.

While it helps increase patients’ participation in the care delivery system, it also has the benefit of potentially promoting healthy behaviours in the population.

Frost and Sullivan stated that much like most evolving markets, in Australia, mHealth is still at its infant stage, and its full potential in addressing some of the major care delivery challenges is yet to be realised. Consumers are leveraging mHealth apps and related data-analytics services mainly for activity monitoring,wellness and fitness purposes. There is some evidence of chronic disease management programs using mHealth both in the public and private sector but these are still in pilot phases.

Clinical use of mHealth continues to be fraught with challenges in adoption. The greatest concern is about the management of mHealth generated data because there are still gaps in regulations governing data ownership and privacy. Moreover, physicians tend to question some of the claims made by mHealth companies and need a federal stamp before they consider clinical uses. In the absence of proven clinical applications, mHealth vendors find it challenging to design a sustainable business model because the big question of who pays for the offering remains unanswered.

“In the healthcare industry, clinicians’ adoption to a new care delivery system is crucial, in the absence of which, the market will have a tendency to move towards commoditisation,” Andria said. “For mHealth in Australia, data security and usage needs to be addressed at the earliest in order to drive market development.”

Tags mHealthFrost & Sullivanmedical health

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