Would 40% really pay for mobile health services?

New research from PricewaterhouseCoopers paints a rosy picture for the future of health-care services delivered over mobile devices, and who would question such optimism given that virtually anything that's important to consumers is rapidly going mobile.

What's more important than health care?

Nevertheless, I do have a question (the one in the headline).

From the PwC press release: "Three in 10 Americans recently surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute said they would use their cell or smartphone to track and monitor their personal health, and 40 percent would be willing to pay for a remote monitoring device that sends health information directly to their doctor. Their interest reflects the nascent but fast-growing market for remote and mobile health and significant business opportunities for organizations using consumer technologies to support preventative, acute and chronic care."

What might "significant business opportunities" mean in dollars and cents? The PwC report pegs the annual market for remote/mobile monitoring devices and services at $7.7 billion to $43 billion, "based on the range consumers said they would be willing to pay."

That's quite a spread on the potential market and one might presume it is related to the caveat about willingness-to-pay thresholds. That info isn't in the press release, but here's an enlightening excerpt from page 18 of the 40-page report:

"While 40% of respondents would be willing to pay for a monthly mobile phone service or device that could send information to their doctor, they would prefer to pay less than $10 for the monthly mobile phone service and less than $75 for the device. … Mike Weckesser, director of emerging business-health solutions at Best Buy, points out the challenges of consumer price expectations related to mobile health technology. 'In our consumer research, although consumers identified a price threshold, they also expected the payer to reimburse them for those purchases, thereby slanting the data.' "

Translation: Most people remain unwilling to pay anything for this kind of service, and those who say they are willing to pay actually mean they're fine with paying as long as it's covered by their insurance.

Which means they aren't really willing to pay.

Behind the Groupon phenomenon

While it's nice to know there's still plenty of "wish I'd thought of that" room on the Internet, there's something oddly unsettling about the truly astronomical success of Groupon, which is built on a not at all complicated idea.

Must be this: Dang, I wish I'd thought of that.

Not yet two years old, Groupon offers its 13 million subscribers a daily sales pitch for a single product or service, and the pitch comes with an important catch: Limited-time offer means exactly that; you either jump on it right away – and enough other subscribers jump on it right away, too – or the opportunity expires. The company's early performance numbers, as cited in a story last week by Forbes, are remarkable:

Groupon has grown faster than eBay, Amazon.com, Yahoo, AOL or Google; YouTube was the only company to reach a $1 billion valuation faster; and, the company is already doing business in 88 U.S. cities and 23 countries.

The bad news for Groupon is that its model is easily imitated -- and has been – which means there could be rougher roads ahead.

But I signed up to give it a try. Will report back if I land any noteworthy deals.

Have you? The address is buzz@nww.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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