Show value, make it simple to profit from health app gold rush

Healthcare apps that are downloaded today may be forgotten tomorrow, according to a HealthWorks Collective article. It likens using health apps to starting a new exercise regimen. A person might be gung-ho at first, but loses motivation over time. Maintaining that engagement remains a huge hurdle for providers.

No matter how enthusiastic a user might be initially, for an app to be used regularly, it has to be simple.

Nick Martin, vice president of innovation, research and development at UnitedHealth Group, told HealthTechZone that providers and payers increasingly look to apps, not only for financial and medical benefits, but to actively engage with patients. To do so, the apps must provide value for both sides.

Mobile healthcare and medical app downloads should reach 44 million by the end of this year, rising to 142 million in 2016, but the percentage of people who have downloaded one has remained at 10 percent for the past two years. In that time, the number of health apps has grown from 2,993 in the beginning of 2010 to 13,619 in April of 2012, according to World of DTC Marketing.

Mobihealth News tracks health apps and says they fit into 12 subcategories, including cardio fitness, dieting, stress relief, chronic condition management and medication adherence. It notes two emerging trends, though, including management of seasonal allergies, physical therapy apps and branded doctor's office apps that allow scheduling and messaging, in some cases.

The problem is that too many of the apps are duplicative. After all, how many BMI calculators does a person need? Far fewer are focused on managing chronic conditions, though apps to help manage diabetes tend to be among the most popular.

Beyond consumer health apps, the market for medical apps is expected to grow faster than the overall market, at an annual rate of 25 percent through 2016, according to Kalorama Information.

Apps' value in medicine appears greatest in the ER, where doctors can use speech-recognition technology to dictate notes on an iPad or send photos of an eye injury to a specialist via a smartphone. There, the value comes through helping doctors provide better care to patients and do it more easily.

To learn more:
- read HealthWorks Collective article
- here's the World of DTC Marketing post
- check out the Mobihealth News article
- here's the HealthTechZone story
- check out the Kalorama Information numbers