Mobile health apps proliferate, but few make money as demand dips

Image credit: Research2Guidance

While supply of mobile health apps is spiking, demand is plummeting and most publishers are struggling to make money, according to a new report from Research2Guidance.

The report, which annually examines the status and trends of the mHealth app market, notes that the one constant in the field is that a majority of these apps remain focused on helping people improve health conditions. More than 2,600 people from across the globe participated in the survey.

“There is no end in sight for the current hype surrounding mHealth apps, but only a fraction of mHealth publishers have found a way to monetize on it,” the report states. “The core business of mHealth app publishing is developing at only a moderate speed. The breakthrough is yet to come.”

Nearly 100,000 new apps have been published since the beginning of last year, with 13,000 new publishers moving into the market over that same span. About 259,000 apps currently are available in the top app stores.

Still, despite all the new entrants into the industry and apps for consumers, download growth rate is around 7 percent this year, compared to a rate of 35 percent in 2015. Through three-quarters in 2016, 78 percent, of publishers have made less than $100,000 from their complete portfolios, and 60 percent are pulling in less than a $1,000 per month.

Chronic illness tools hold the most promise for app developers, the survey's authors say, followed by health and fitness in terms of focus for providers.

Diabetes has long been a focus for health app developers, with both startups and more established players striving to produce better and more cost-effective tools. For instance, IBM, last June, formed a partnership with the American Diabetes Association on a personalized app to work with its Watson Care Manager. More recently, IBM announced a collaboration with Medtronic on a Sugar.IQ with Watson cognitive app.

Within five years, remote monitoring apps are expected to hold the best market potential, Research2Guidance predicts, with diagnostic apps just behind. Diabetes will be the top ranked therapy field over that time, respondents believe, along with obesity and hypertension.