Staggering projected growth of mobile health and fitness applications and devices will put more focus on high-tech healthcare manufacturing and shift supply chain dynamics.
Whether you call it mobile health, connected health, telehealth, remote monitoring, or self-motivated fitness and health tracking, the crossover between healthcare, well being, and mobile technology is happening in a big way. Soon, this trend could have a significant impact all the way through the electronics supply chain.
Here are just a few of the current mHealth stats and projections that will make manufacturers drool.
First and foremost, the medical device ecosystem is rapidly moving from standalone "device + patient + physician" clinical scenarios to health access and mobility beyond the four walls of a hospital or doctor's office, notes EMS company Jabil Circuit Inc. on its Aim Higher blog featuring this infographic loaded with useful data. This is setting up the stage for what could be a $23 billion worldwide mHealth market by 2017, with more than 3.4 billion people using smartphones or tablets to access mobile health apps, the company said.
ABI Research, cited in this GigaOm Pro report, estimates that the global market for wearables (or wearable computing) in health and fitness could reach 170 million devices by 2017. In electronics speak, that means millions and millions of sensors, chips, batteries, and other high-tech materials will be needed for these embedded clothing and accessories.
Emerging markets, namely South Africa, India, and Brazil, are leading the mHealth curve, followed by the US and other mature markets, according to this PwC report. Why? Emerging markets, which have lagged behind in traditional healthcare options, have high mobile phone penetration and among the youngest, tech-savvy populations worldwide; consumers in these market actively use their phones to search for information and are open to the idea that a phone could help them manage their health.
In the US and Europe, the mHealth adoption rate will largely hinge on what steps governments, insurance companies, and healthcare professionals take to manage rising medical costs for their aging populations. The GSMA points out, for instance, that mHealth could save almost €100 billion (US$130 billion) in healthcare costs in the European Union by 2017, add €93 billion (US$121 billion) in GDP, and reduce care costs for chronic conditions by 30 to 35 percent via improved treatment compliance and remote patient monitoring.
In addition, there's even a gender split that's worth watching, at least from a US perspective. A recent study by Flurry, an app data services company, shows that women from 25 to 34 years old are heavily engaged in using apps that fall into the sports, health, and fitness categories, spending more than 200 percent more time in these apps then the rest of the population.
All this is to say that mHealth is shaping up to be the next big thing, with all sorts of devices and apps popping up to help individuals, families, and medical professionals track fitness levels, chronic diseases, and overall well-being.
As this happens, medical device manufacturing will move from a niche segment to a mainstream battleground. The ripple effect will put the electronics supply chain in a critical position to meet supply and demand grows. All those chips, sensors, batteries, power components, and hardware-software interfaces going into smartphones, eye glasses, sneakers, heart monitors, Bluetooth scales, and sugar testers have to come from somewhere, right?
So all of this begs the question: Is your supply chain healthy enough to keep up with mHealth?