Several of the largest technology companies in the world announced last week that they are planning to increase their research efforts and investment in wireless healthcare solutions. GE and Intel announced they will co-invest $250 million over the next 5 years to develop remote patient-monitoring devices, a market they think will grow to $7.7 billion in three years. Similarly, Qualcomm will sponsor a healthcare institute in San Diego to support the development of wireless sensing applications. The announcements were likely timed to coincide with the government’s plan to invest $20 billion in healthcare modernization, and to reassure investors that the companies are keeping an eye on long-term growth opportunities despite the chorus of bad economic news.
Vital Wave Consulting notes that the announcements by Qualcomm, GE and Intel (as well as earlier initiatives by Microsoft and Google) are curiously confined to mature markets. Government investment in these markets is designed to address skyrocketing healthcare costs, an aging population and care for chronic conditions. In emerging markets, the drivers of remote healthcare are also significant, but not necessarily the same as those in mature markets. Emerging-market governments hope to provide better healthcare to remote areas, and initiate (rather than fix) comprehensive and efficient health records systems.
There are near-term and long-term revenue opportunities for a variety of health technology companies in both mature and emerging markets. In China, for example, the government recently detailed a massive $120 billion injection to their healthcare infrastructure, and the Indian healthcare industry is expected to grow from $17 to $40 billion by 2012. This increase roughly equals the US government’s planned investment in healthcare systems over the same period, but represents a 17% CAGR, or double the anticipated rate of economic growth in India. The paths to realizing opportunities in the US and India (or any other combination of mature and emerging markets) will be different, and require distinct rhetoric, strategies, and product development efforts. The companies that achieve the most mileage out of their healthcare investments will be those that consider mature and emerging markets in tandem, and if necessary develop specific solutions for each market.