After the success of Turkcell’s Healthmeter, what next in the mHealth sector?

In September 2014, telecoms operator Turckcell announced the results of a medical study with Istanbul University on the impact of the Turkcell Healthmeter on diabetes patients. This collaboration was reported by online publication M2M Magazine as the first known global example of an operator-developed mobile health product that has led to significant health improvements, as demonstrated by a leading medical research institution.
The Turkcell Healthmeter is a device that can wirelessly connect with Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose meters to collect data readings and then transmit them to the patient’s doctor. In the study, patients that used the Healthmeter had lower HbA1c (3-month blood sugar) levels than those that otherwise continued with their regular drug routines.
The research follows a previous study in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology that claimed that apps for monitoring diabetes lacked necessary features, most notably Bluetooth glucose monitoring. The Healthmeter’s M2M Embedded SIM enables it to easily relay data to a smartphone, though the device itself does not require a smartphone to function.
It is effective because it is able to report data to doctors and physicians in real time: the results of the Healthmeter are transferred to a database and if there are any irregularities in data readings, a doctor is alerted by SMS.
The potential for more responsive diagnosis and treatment of patients, and the opportunity for manufacturers and operators in the mHealth space to save costs, are two key reasons why remote monitoring is poised for rapid growth in the next few years. In the U.S. the number of patients using connected medical devices is predicted to grow threefold to 10.3 million in the next 3 years, according to M2M research house, Berg Insight.
The growth of remote monitoring is part of a broader trend in the healthcare sector in which companies are increasingly utilising new ways of collecting and processing greater and more complex data sets. Liz Khorey, Executive Director of Ernst and Young’s Healthcare Advisory practice, expects that in 2015 ‘interoperability—the extent that health care systems and devices can share and interpret data—will re-emerge as a theme as organizations struggle to work without the necessary ability to exchange data… A significant push by patients to gain electronic access to their medical records could become a catalyst for change’.
Nonetheless, there are solutions for interoperability, most notably, the Continua Health Alliance Design Guidelines that provide standards and security for connected health technologies such as tablets, smartphones, gateways and remote monitoring devices, and have been widely adopted throughout the health sector.
Healthcare market research firm IDC Insights predicts that ‘the need to manage cohorts of patients with chronic conditions, will lead 70 percent of healthcare organizations to invest in consumer-facing mobile apps, wearables, remote monitoring tools, and virtual care’. This in turn will lead to more demand for Big Data and analytics capability to support population health management initiatives’.
The success of Turkcell’s Healthmeter is a step forward in demonstrating the advantages of mHealth solutions. Nonetheless, operators and manufactures must continue to develop solutions that can be even more tailored to patients’ needs. Open platform initiatives and Industry collaboration will be key to unlocking new and more intuitive ways in which patients can access and use their own medical data—a demand which will likely increase with developments in other M2M sectors and as the strain on public healthcare becomes more apparent.