Would 40% of us really pay for mobile health care services?

Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute suggests booming market

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.

After all, what's more important than health care?

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

From the PwC press release:

Three in ten Americans recently surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute said they would use their cell or smart phone 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 "estimates the annual consumer market for remote/mobile monitoring devices and services to be $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 (which can be accessed here by those willing to register):

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 company.

Which means they aren't really willing to pay.

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