mHealth potential: More questions than answers

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BARCELONA, Spain--Many wireless firms are closely watching the mobile healthcare space--and with good reason. McKinsey & Company projects the global mHealth opportunity could be worth up to $60 billion. However, there are more questions than answers when it comes to how the ecosystem will develop.

During a panel session at the Mobile World Congress trade show here, McKinsey & Company associate principal Ajay Bakshi said his company recently surveyed 3,000 households about their interest in four potential mHealth products. The survey, which covered India, China, South Africa, Brazil and the United States, found that 70 percent of respondents were interested in at least one product. Further, many also exhibited a willingness to pay for that product.

According to Bakshi, 25 percent of the respondents in the U.S. said they would pay for a mobile health product, and many said they would be willing to pay as much as 20 times what they currently pay for their wireless airtime. In India, the response was also high, with those surveyed saying they would pay up to 10 times what they currently pay for their wireless airtime for a service that would provide them with 24-hour access to a doctor.

But Bakshi and the other panelists, including representatives from wireless firms such as LG and Ericsson, admitted that the industry must foster innovation and partnerships in order for the mHealth ecosystem to grow. Bakshi suggested wireless companies form partnerships with academia, entrepreneurs and healthcare firms in order to prompt more growth in this area.

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