The evolution of how we use services has dramatically shifted over the last decade, whether buying our groceries or the next new outfit comfortably from the sofa online with just a tap of the screen. At the center of this evolution are the internet and our mobile companion, the smartphone, both enabling us conveniently to use services not bound to a specific location.
Based on this newly acquired mobility, more and more other aspects of our lives are adapting these benefits of convenience – particularly our health care. Although healthcare is not yet at the level of digitalization, such as the previously mentioned consumption of daily life goods, we are on a promising path to catch up.
In the center to leverage digital technology and the mobile telephony further in medicine and healthcare are so-called mHealth-initiatives primarily supported by every countries’ department of health or the World Health Organization (WHO).
Learn more on eHealth in our previously published article Healthcare in a digitally connected world – how eHealth is improving our health.
This will be a mini-series on mHealth providing answers on (i) what mHealth is and what initiatives currently are happening in Europe, (ii) how healthcare systems can benefit from it and what potential benefits lie ahead, and (iii) going “back-to-the-future” by comparing an outlook report “mHealth: A new vision for healthcare” by GSMA and McKinsey & Company– co-authored by our CEO Alessio Ascari – with today’s reality for mHealth.
What is mHealth?
Mobile Health or mHealth refers to the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other wireless devices. mHealth is a sub-segment of eHealth and encompasses all applications of telecommunications and multimedia technologies for the delivery of healthcare and health information.
mHealth is rapidly evolving with over 100’000 apps for the mobile phone currently available on the market. These applications cover areas from nutrition or fitness to cardiovascular surveillance or genomics. mHealth has the potential to take an essential part in the transformation of healthcare, increasing its quality and efficiency, as well as being the missing piece to include each and every citizen conveniently with their healthcare system.
The global mHealth solutions market in 2020 had a volume of USD 50.82 billion and is expected to reach USD 213.6 billion by 2025.
Thanks to mHealth, citizens are now in the driving seat to manage their health more independently through self-assessment or remote monitoring solutions. These newly collected pieces of information also deliver new insights to the healthcare professional, on which they can base their decision on improving health strategies.
How are mHealth and eHealth handled?
The digitization of healthcare all across the globe is an opportunity for any healthcare system to increase efficiency and lower costs due to aging populations, rising medical procedure costs, resource constraints, and the overall empowerment of patients through the internet directly in their pockets.
eHealth and particularly mHealth is handled differently from one country to another; here we’d like to describe some examples from Europe.
In 2018 the Center of Competence and Coordination of Confederation and Cantons in Switzerland published their new Swiss eHealth Strategy 2.0 to be applied by 2022. Amongst their strategy were 25 objectives formulated, which overall aim to enhance the promotion of digitalization in the healthcare sector.
Particularly for mHealth, the strategy includes promoting, implementing, and validating mHealth applications. Measures range from the gradual implementation of the previously formulated mHealth Recommendations and issuing potential additional recommendations when needed to encouraging the secure integration of relevant health data from mHealth into the Environment and Health Process (EHP) regarding data privacy.
Over the past couple of years, the healthcare system in Germany has made quite some progress – legislative-wise – in the digitization of healthcare. A significant impact worldwide was the exploded need for telemedicine during the COVID19 pandemic. According to a report carried out by McKinsey & Company, citizens downloaded twice as often health apps as in the same period during the previous year.
The German Federal Ministry of Health has created a framework enabling many of the benefits from digitization to be exploited. These include the introduction of the Electronic Health Records (ePA), the introduction of the electronic prescription (e-prescription), and the creation of a new access point for digital health applications (DiGA or “app on prescription”).
Especially the Digital Supply Act (DVG) from 2019, the “app on prescription” was introduced to shift the point of care increasingly from the doctor’s office and clinic to the patient. The interaction of software, sensors, and medical technology will also open up completely new diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities. These innovative medical devices will also become part of standard care.
The Spanish health system has stood out as one of the benchmarks of this technological revolution so far. As in other countries, the COVID19 pandemic has accelerated the development of more mHealth applications through smartphones and subsequent specialized apps.
These new eHealth services have been well received and are already established in Spain. The range is from the use of electronic prescriptions, making appointments using the internet, or accessing Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). Although more significant investments in the development of satisfactory levels for usage is needed, but positive preliminary results such as reduced costs through telecare seem to attract these future investments to establish them fully.
The Spanish state and regional AC health services are actively reacting upon the emerging need mHealth, as they are updating their web portals for mobile use and developing apps that allow interaction with healthcare professionals or monitor activities and behaviors through smartwatches.
Within the Italian healthcare system, the most common digital health applications target education and awareness, diagnostic and treatment support based on remote monitoring, disease and epidemic tracking – especially during the COVID19 pandemic – and telehealth/telemedicine.
Numerous mHealth initiatives across Italy have already demonstrated the effectiveness of using mobile devices to cost-effectively deliver such health solutions:
- Patients use their smartphones in the context of health education or contacting healthcare professionals.
- Healthcare professionals can conveniently access the latest clinical guidelines, collaborate with colleagues, analyze data, receive diagnostic support, and interact with patients.
- Adherence and disease management can be supported through smart alerts that notify physicians – based on data from remote monitoring – when a patient is not taking their medication as prescribed, and intervention is needed.
Currently, mHealth services are being used to collect and include patient data into national health information systems and as remote information tools – mainly smartphones or tablets – that provide information to the healthcare system. In addition, they help identify individual and community health needs in the clinical setting.
Based on the current COVID-19 pandemic, many trends in mHealth applications have increased. This is especially true for:
- Health extension services including Home-based monitoring of patients and reporting
- Health-related learning and awareness campaigns for the general public delivered through the phone as well as the virtual trainings of healthcare workers
- Health promotion and community mobilization 
- Support for chronic care management (e.g., diabetes or cancer) 
What does GenomSys provide in terms of mHealth?
At GenomSys, we address these developments head-on. We rightfully want to establish actual personalized medicine through mHealth in genomics. Our solutions reflect the need for high-level data privacy, convenience, and high interoperability. All this is combined in our standard for genomic data (MPEG-G), which is at the core of all our solutions within the GenomSys EcoSystem.
Our EcoSystem combines the professional world with the individual world in genomics. We aim to enable individuals to access and use their genomic information, providing science-based yet ethically-compliant insights, granting the highest level of privacy and security. Meeting the new trend by providing a solution where individuals demand a higher control and true ownership of their data.
We believe that healthcare in the future will be an ecosystem consisting of state-of-the-art tools for professionals and convenient, highly secure applications for citizens to take action when it comes to their health easily.
By Lucas Laner on February 9, 2022.
 Innovatemedtec; mHealth (2021); https://innovatemedtec.com/digital-health/mhealth
 ReportLinker; The global mHealth solutions market is projected to reach USD 213.6 billion by 2025 from USD 50.82 billion in 2020, at a high CAGR of 33.3% during the forecast period of 2020 to 2025 (2020); https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/02/21/1988694/0/en/The-global-mHealth-solutions-market-is-projected-to-reach-USD-213-6-billion-by-2025-from-USD-50-82-billion-in-2020-at-a-high-CAGR-of-33-3-during-the-forecast-period-of-2020-to-2025.html
 Parker Moss, Alessio Ascari, Ajay Bakshi, Ferry Grijpink; mHealth: A new vision for healthcare (2010).
 MedTech Reimbursement Consulting; Swiss eHealth strategy 2018-2022 has been released (2019); https://mtrconsult.com/news/swiss-ehealth-strategy-2018-2022-has-been-released
 McKinsey & Company; Germany’s e-health infrastructure strengthens, but digital uptake is lagging (2020). https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/life-sciences/our-insights/germanys-e-health-infrastructure-strengthens-but-digital-uptake-is-lagging
 Bundesministerium für Gesundheit. E-Health – Digitalisierung im Gesundheitswesen (2021); https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/e-health-initiative.html
 Mahou X, Barral B, Fernández Á, Bouzas-Lorenzo R, Cernadas A. eHealth and mHealth Development in Spain: Promise or Reality?. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(24):13055. Published 2021 Dec 10. doi:10.3390/ijerph182413055
 Cernadas A., Barral B., Fernández Da Silva Á., Bouzas-Lorenzo R. Ehealth in Spain: Evolution, current status and future prospects. Saude Soc. 2020;29:4. doi: 10.1590/S0104-12902020190886.
 EUROPEAN mHEALTH HUB. mHealth Strategies, governance models and change management V0.1 (2020).
Picture: stethoscope/ pixabay