Patience is vital for m-health success, warns O2 chief

Operators should not be blinded by the possibility of there being pot of gold at the end of the m-health rainbow, the managing director of O2 Health has told European Communications.

Predicting the size of the m-health market is notoriously difficult given its nascent nature, but most analysts agree that there is a significant opportunity for operators to tap into a global healthcare market that the World Health Organisation puts at €4.5 trillion.

 

However, Keith Nurcombe, who set up O2 Health in 2010, believes caution is the order of the day.

“There is a temptation for operators to think that the m-health market will provide healthy returns but it takes time to build momentum,” he warned.

“There is an opportunity, but it requires credible solutions, specific capabilities and time to be able to exploit it.”

Since launch, O2 Health has built up a team of 40 people – the bulk of whom come from a health background – and has over 100 “relationships” with public and private healthcare providers across the UK.

Although “fundamentally” a business-to-business venture, Nurcombe said the company would also directly target consumers. The MD put the split at 70-30 in the favour of B2B.

He declined to share current revenue figures and said future growth was difficult to predict given the very definition of m-health is still to be precisely nailed down.

The company is focusing on specific areas such as efficiency savings for healthcare providers and telecare – particularly remote patient monitoring.

With the UK’s National Health Service making changes to its business model and “struggling” to give the care that their patients want, Nurcombe said operators had “plenty to go at”.

The company launched Help at Hand, the UK’s first telecare service built around mobile technology, two weeks ago.

This joins the existing Side By Side virtual meeting service.

Although he didn’t reveal precise costs associated with Help at Hand, the MD said it was a “multimillion pound development” about which he was “absolutely confident” of seeing a return on investment.

Significant challenges remain, however, when it comes to building on these products.

The biggest, according to the MD, is getting the O2 brand recognised within the health sector.

Perhaps surprisingly, the MD said regulation was not another challenge.

“[Regulation] is not particularly an issue. Clearly we need to abide by it but it doesn’t get in our way,” he commented.

Instead, the slower decision-making process associated with getting a product to market and stretched inhouse resources are causing him more of a headache.

Other operators should take heart nevertheless.

Nurcombe, who has spent over 20 years working in the healthcare field, said operators’ scale, both in terms of development, market and geography, puts them in a strong position to leverage the opportunities available.

How big these opportunities prove to be still remains to be seen.

 

Photo: © tiero - Fotolia.com

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