Ireland urged to move on mobile healthcare
Ireland should move quickly to develop its mobile healthcare industry and make a name for the country in the sector, a leading industry figure has said.Known as the mHealth sector, it utilises mobile technology to enable management of health and early detection of any issues, while presenting a good opportunity for Ireland to drive revenue for technology firms and ultimately create employment, Enterprise Ireland's Robert Bushnell said.
"We think it's going to be a very big area in that healthcare costs are very high, not just in Ireland but in the whole western world and they've gone up a lot," said Mr Bushnell.
"On the other side the mobile tech has become much better, much more ubiquitous. It's much more reliable than it used to be, more robust.
"We've talked about mHealth for years, but now it's going to happen because of those two drivers."
A report from Transparency Market Research estimates that the global mHealth market will be worth $10.2 billion by 2018.
That compares with $1.3 billion last year, indicating a significant growth trajectory over the next few years.
Enterprise Ireland sees the main opportunity for Ireland in the sector in the software side of the business, making products that look at particular diseases and can be rolled out worldwide.
"Ireland is strong in mobile technology. Certainly for our size we punch above our weight in that. We've got some very good companies. We have a cluster of connected companies as well," he said.
Enterprise Ireland and Mobile Monday are hoping to bring mobile companies and IT health firms together at a free seminar on the mHealth industry at the Science Gallery next week. The event, which takes place on Monday, will feature speakers including Kieran Daly from Shimmer Research, which designs and develops wearable wireless sensors for both research and commercial healthcare applications; director of Technology Research for Independent Living Dr Brian Caulfield; and representatives from mobile operator Vodafone Ireland. FeedHenry will also speak at the event and show what the firm has been doing on the ground in terms of practical applications of mHealth.
Although the mHealth sector is in its early stages there have been moves to address this. A connected health technology centre is being established by Enterprise Ireland.
And even though there are not a huge number of companies in this space in Ireland at present, some of those that are involved are already making a splash.
Irish-based Sensormind has been nominated for the Best Mobile Health Product or Service award at the Global Mobile Awards at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month.
However Ireland needs to move fast to build its reputation in this area.
"We're not the only country with this agenda. You'll find mobile health initiatives going on in the UK and the Nordic countries," said Mr Bushnell.
"You're looking at getting into it early so you get a name for it in terms of being a country that is well on top of this. Other countries will be doing this as well, so we need to be proactive in getting it up and running."