Healthcare highlights @ Mobile World Congress, Barcelona

New alliances:  The formation of the Wholesale Applications Community by 24 major global telcoms and three manufacturers (LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson) to build an open platform for delivery of mobile and internet applications.  This will certainly impact healthcare.   Release (FierceWireless)

Optimistic predictions and an unfortunate gender gap:  The International Telecommunications Union projects worldwide mobile phone users will reach 5 billion by end of 2010.  The ITU Secretary-General Toure praised the potential of mobile phones in better health. “Even the simplest, low-end mobile phone can do so much to improve healthcare in the developing world,” citing SMS messages for checkups and reminders.  Mobihealthnews.  Yet a study by the GSMA and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women illustrates a mobile phone gender gap in those countries–women are 23% less likely to own a phone in Africa, 24% in the Middle East and a surprising 37% in South Asia.   The mobile phone is positioned as key to education, health and employment opportunities for women.  FierceMobileHealthcare

For more connectivity, collaboration.  And yes, consumers want useful mobile caregiving systems:  Another GSMA study, this time with Accenture, confirms that consumers want more connectivity but that device manufacturers and wireless carriers are simply going to have to get along.  And those who are caregivers right now want mobile caregiver systems–a lot.  From the release, “When asked about mobile-enabled caregiver systems, 41 percent of consumers indicated interest, and 72 percent of respondents who currently provide care for elders indicated interest. Caregiver systems include devices that connect to one another and the Internet to monitor a person’s vital signs, level of physical activity, and physical condition, as well as devices that monitor for safety hazards. These systems enable monitoring via a laptop or a smart phone, send out “alerts” in case of an emergency and provide associated voice service that permits instant communication at the touch of a button.”   ReleaseStudy download (registration required)

Enter the ‘Embedded Zone’:   Accenture is also a key part of the GSMA Mobile Embedded Zone on the MWC exhibit floor.  Two healthcare related scenarios in the ‘zone’ which show the power of embedded modules for connectivity are Independent Living for the Elderly and Diabetic Monitoring for Healthy Living.  The Accenture link does not include what technologies are being featured and the GSMA release is a teaser, but a safe guess is that the winners of the GSMA Embedded Mobile Competition will be part of it:  Philips and Cinterion, Samsung and KT, Isabella and AT&T. 

GSMA and Continua partner:   GSMA also announced their partnership with the Continua Alliance to promote embedded mobile devices in healthcare as part of the Embedded Mobile Initiative.  Their common goal is to enable interoperability for mobile health devices and create both a scalable and viable mobile healthcare market. 

One last interesting statistic:  GSMA estimates that remote monitoring of chronic diseases could potentially save $175-200 billion each year in OECD and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries alone.  mHealth Update