Mobile health (otherwise known as m-health) is proving to be a hot topic for conference organisers in the Middle East. While this does not necessarily mean that it will become the next big investment opportunity in the region, indications are that it could – if regulations allow.
Certainly the concept of mobile health is not new. It has been around for generations, but is more associated with the Australian outback in the form of flying doctors than it is with the sand dunes of the Arabian deserts.
M-health is, however, much more than moving around medical equipment and services in vans or aircraft to communities living in remote corners of the earth. It is also about how mobile communication can be used to enable better healthcare provision.
Telecom operators and healthcare providers, large and small, are seeking ways to enhance their collaboration and find new and improved ways to bring m-health to the masses. Whether in Africa, south Asia or the Middle East, they are discussing ways in which they can work together through joint ventures, partnerships and alliances. Many of the companies are open to stake sales and are keen to partner with organisations from different parts of the world to enter new markets. Investment capital for m-health innovations and enterprises in emerging markets is being sought.
In the healthcare field, the mobile phone can be leveraged in so many ways. In Uganda, for example, text messages are being used to provide health education. Mobile technologies can also be used to provide medical diagnoses and training and even more innovative technologies can facilitate more accurate and effective patient care and diagnoses.
M-health is burgeoning, affecting how healthcare services will be delivered in emerging markets. With this comes a large number of investment opportunities. But, ultimately, whether m-health takes off will depend on the successful resolution of some of the regulatory issues that could emerge.
Lucia Dore is the Gulf correspondent at mergermarket, part of the Financial Times Group. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org