The Growth of Smartphone Utilization
iPhone sales now outpace births. In the December quarter, Apple sold 37 million iPhones at an average rate of 4.6 per second. The current global birth rate is 4.2 per second. Based on this kind of market demand, Cisco predicts that there will be one mobile phone for every person on earth by 2015. Other statistics from the Mobile Marketing Association, MobiThinking, Comscore, and the Wireless Association are also indicative of such rapid growth. For example, one-third of US consumers no longer use landline phones with cell phone penetration over 96% of the population; over 50% of adult Americans now own smart phones, the typical American spends 45 minutes on his cell phone daily, while the average teenager sends over 3000 texts per month.
The fact of the matter is that mobile phones are the fastest growing communications medium not only in the US, but worldwide—China will hit one billion cell phone subscribers this year with India lagging behind at a mere 900 million sold to date. It is well known that the average cell phone has greater processing power than Apollo 11’s onboard computer, so we shouldn’t be surprised that smartphones are already demonstrating that they are trending to become the PC of the future.
Mobile is also a very big business globally—technology and strategy consultant, Chetan Sharma, predicts that mobile data revenues will reach $80 billion this year. While cell phones are at the leading edge of marketing and advertising, and are a favorite way for media, entertainment companies, and consumer brands to reach users, cell phones are also increasingly being used as a conduit for the healthcare community, connecting healthcare providers and insurers with patients and their families.
Smartphone Use in Personalized Medicine
Reporting on findings in a recent Forrester study in her blog post of March 30 (http://goo.gl/uiAYi ), market researcher, Reineke Reitsma, observes: “We know that consumers are ready for healthcare-related activities on their mobile phones.” Data from the research study shows “that a third of smartphone owners use their phone for healthcare-related activities, ranging from tracking what they eat to medication text alerts.” Activities surveyed by researchers included finding a nearby pharmacy (30%), finding a nearby doctor or hospital (18%), looking up prescription costs (10%), looking up health insurance costs (8%), appointment text alerts (17%), paying health bills (9%) and even playing health games (10%).
According to Reitsma, “healthcare is not just about curing disease—it’s also about culture, technology, and consumer behavior. And those elements are very familiar to me as a market researcher.” She cites her excitement about attending the TEDx event in Maastricht, the Netherlands, a conference which is dedicated to the future of healthcare. At last year’s event, she describes having heard a cancer patient named Dave who spoke about learning to understand his illness better through the use of various patient support communities like epatients.net.
“It’s great to see how technology can help people in very difficult situations,” Reitsma reports now that Dave has become a celebrated patient activist for participatory medicine and personal health data rights.
Personal Medicine Through the “App”
Reitsma also describes the trend for crowdsourcing in medicine. Crowdsourcing is an important business idea that involves tapping collective intelligence by outsourcing tasks to a distributed group in a process that usually involves both online and real world interaction. Lucien Engelen, the founder and curator of “The Future of Health” at TEDx (http://www.tedxmaastricht.nl) is an advocate of crowdsourcing and the use of social media in medicine. At the 2011 event, Engelen advocated the use of crowdsourcing to create a world defibrillator map, and the app is now available at: http://aed4.us
A published case study by another Forrester researcher, Liz Boehm, refers to a successful mobile strategy developed by Humana, a US insurer. Its MyHumana Mobile administrative app currently boasts a 4.5 star rating (out of 5) in Apple’s iTunes App Store with a 3.3 in the Android Marketplace. A Humana survey of its mobile services reports a 92% satisfaction rating among users.
Developing a Personalized Medical Remote Control
Mary Meeker, a partner at the renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers, predicts that: “Mobile devices will evolve as remote controls for ever-expanding types of real-time cloud-based services, including the emerging category of location-based services, creating opportunities and dislocations, empowering consumers in unprecedented and transformative ways.” See http://goo.gl/9t9KV for Meeker’s Top Ten List of Key Internet Trends).
Sound like science fiction?
Recently, the XPrize Foundation (which is best known for its pioneering prize support of private spaceflight), announced a joint program with Qualcomm for a $10 million “Tricorder Prize.” Best known from the “Star Trek” TV series as Dr. McCoy’s indispensable tool, the tricorder was a sensor-loaded, handheld device that was used for noninvasive scanning of patients. The tool provided instant results on all manner of vital signs including blood type and other tests that take hours or days in the real world. In the TV show, it allowed Starfleet medical personnel the capability of diagnosing and treating maladies to keep pace with its fast moving storylines. The foundation reports that a number of devices have already entered the competition.
Perhaps, we can add our own prediction that mobile phones and apps will reinvent the doctor’s house call for the 21st century and provide the foundation for the collaborative and personalized medicine of the future.