When it comes to wobbly dynamics, mHealth seems to doing well. Lots of different initiatives seem to pop up right across Africa. This can obscure the overall trend, so a US, France, Germany and UK benchmark can help.
Vanson Bourne, a market research firm dealing with technology, asked Red Hat, a survey firm, to find out more. Its results show that 82% of healthcare organisations have a fully implemented mHealth strategy. This’s much more mature compared to commercial enterprises rate of 52% a year ago.
About 78% of healthcare organisations say they’re achieving positive Returns on Investment (ROI) from their mHealth, but the report doesn’t say how much, how long it takes, how long it’s for, when diminishing returns set in. when major upgrades or replacement are needed, or the length of their life cycles. However, the ROI is seen as the driver for more mHealth investment over the next year, set to be 56% up on the average number for each US healthcare organisation. This means an increase from nine to 14 apps. The four EU countries developed an average of 13 apps and estimate 31% growth, so 17 apps each in the next 12 months.
A financing snag’s looming. Red Hat found the expected increase in budgets may not support the estimated growth. Planned budget increases average 15.5%, well below the forecast mHealth growth rates. The disparity between forecast budget growth and mHealth growth may constrain one-off projects. Instead, healthcare may move towards a modern platform-based model that supports agile development and modern architecture with Application Programming Interface (API) as its building blocks. This should help increase developer efficiency, reduce development costs, and support increasing mHealth demand. It’s a model for Africa’s health systems to adopt.
Why do the acclaimed mHealth ROIs not provide sufficient finance for the next mHealth investment wave? It is question that Africa’s health systems should ask. Part of the answer may be that the ROIs aren’t entirely financial returns. They may include productivity gains that enable resources to be redeployed but don’t generate extra cash. Another component may be financial and intangible benefits for patients, carers and communities, so more of a Socio-Economic return (SER) with no extra cash for health systems.
Red Hat found a wide range of mHealth users across business needs, between 60% and 63%, for better patient engagement and care between 57% and 60%, and patient demands at 56% in the US and 43% in the EU countries.
In the US mHealth is provided mainly for doctors:
- Doctors 59%
- Technicians 44%
- Patients 55%.
In the EU countries, it’s very different:
- Pharmaceutical research development staff 53%
- Patients 46%
- Doctors 43%
Over the next year, external, user and patient demands are expected to outpace demand for internal efficiencies slightly.
It may be that relying heavy on languages like Java and .Net for integration may limit organisations’ mHealth agility compared to using lightweight back-end languages like Node.js or Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS). Switching needs a big swing towards these languages.
Africa’s health systems can tailgate these mHealth changes in other continents. It’ll help them to keep up and improve their momentum.