Vodafone, AstraZeneca partner on mobile health care services

Mobile health care has the potential to save billions, but is a complicated sector, analyst says

Vodafone and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca have teamed up to provide mobile health services for improving treatment of cardiovascular conditions.

The two companies will create mobile and Internet-based services to support patients, including helping them stick with treatment plans. The services will be designed to work across geographies, with the ability to adapt to local variations in regulations, Vodafone and AstraZeneca said Tuesday.

The project will be led by AstraZeneca, with Vodafone providing the technology and infrastructure for the services, as well as "the ability to capture data from a variety of sources," Vodafone said.

The companies did not elaborate on the particulars of what they will develop or the timing. Potential applications include pacemakers that can connect to the Internet or another network and heart-rate monitors, according to Matt Hatton, director at Machina Research.

At the same time, vendors such as Samsung and Apple are showing a growing interest in health care. For example, Samsung's Galaxy S5, which will go on sale in April, has an integrated pulse meter and Apple's reported Healthbook app is rumored to include features related to monitoring blood sugar, blood pressure and nutrition.

Health care is one of the most complicated machine-to-machine sectors when used for clinical treatments, but also one with great potential for societal impact.

"Health care budgets in the developed world tend to be going up, but there is a big challenge with an aging population and how to cope with that. The way to handle that is with these connected solutions," Hatton said.

At the same time there are a lot of hoops to jump trough related to compliance issues, but that's out of necessity, according to Hatton.

Much of the potential savings are related to more proactive treatments of diseases, such as diabetes, preventing episodes that cost a lot of money to treat and at the same time improving the quality of life for patients, Hatton said.

By using mobile services, health care systems in the EU could lower annual spending by €99 billion (US$138 billion) by 2017, after the costs are subtracted for additional workers needed to maintain mobile health systems, according to a report published by industry organization GSM Association last year.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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