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Mobile Health Apps Market Poised For Takeoff

Report says mobile health applications will continue to grow as physicians, patients, and health plans use technology to address changes in healthcare delivery.

12 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look
9 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The convergence of mobile technology with an evolving healthcare delivery system will continue to drive the mobile health (mHealth) applications market, which will see revenues grow from $230 million in 2010 to $392 million in 2015, according to research from Frost & Sullivan.

According to the report--Analysis of the U.S. Broadband mHealth Applications Market--in the near term, the mobile health app market will benefit from an increasing number of consumers who will purchase smartphones and tablets and download easily accessible and affordable health apps. To prove the point, the study projects there will be 82 million tablet users by 2015, up from 10 million in 2010.

Among those projected to download and use mobile health apps more frequently over the next few years are older Americans and their caregivers and patients with chronic conditions. The study notes that as the healthcare industry seeks to reduce costs, mobile health apps will become more prevalent. The aim of these tools is to better monitor patients’ health and prevent costly events such as hospital readmissions.

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

Furthermore, in a consumer-driven patient-centered healthcare model, patients are encouraged to play a greater role in tracking their health through mobile health apps that monitor vital information such as medication adherence, blood pressure, and glucose readings.

"The most surprising research finding is the significant growth already seen in this market and the willingness for consumers to fit the bill," Zachary Bujnoch, senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "This is unexpected due to the very low awareness and presence of mind consumers have concerning mHealth products; the value is there but it currently is rarely properly shown to the consumer."

The report noted that the market is still in the very early stages of development and there are significant challenges ahead for developers, namely new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and oversight that might stall innovation. However, the upside to FDA involvement in the market could be to ferret out trivial health apps that make unwarranted medical claims.

"While the increases in FDA regulation will stifle some innovation, it will be a benefit to the market as a whole to vet out the many minimal value mHealth apps present," Bujnoch observed.

Other challenges facing the growth of the mobile health app market are security and privacy concerns. "Although every industry that deals with electronic information is vulnerable to data breach or misuse (i.e., by financial institutions, government, or social networks), the realm of health information is so fraught with emotion and liability that the effects of security gone awry are all the more upsetting and may restrain wider mHealth adoption," the report stated.

Still, the general consensus is that the market will grow, with payers and providers having the most to gain from the deployment of mobile health apps and the data these apps will manage. "The formidable technical challenges are to link large IT systems--electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs), and payer databases--with what are now discrete software products, and to generate meaningful analytics," the report said. "The primary marketing challenge will be acquiring the time, talent, and resources required to familiarize consumers with mHealth apps and the concept of self-health to get a user base that justifies expenses."

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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