Study: mHealth app hype remains strong but inroads slowly being paved

The mHealth app industry is maturing, and while just a little over half of app makers share the altruistic goal of improving patient health, a greater number have not yet achieved that goal, according to a new report, despite, the fact there are more than 165,000 apps in play from 45,000 vendors.

The fifth annual research2guidance mHealth App Developer Economics report, published in November, reveals there is still much hype regarding mHealth apps, hype it predicts will continue, given that 54 percent of app makers entered the marketplace in the past two years.

"The mHealth app market is very unique and differs significantly from other app categories in what companies want to get out of their engagement," notes a blog post on the study's results. The chronically ill and hospitals are the top focus for app makers, the report points out.

"mHealth apps, when the publishers get them right, are helping the user to change their behavior and mHealth app publishers have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn't," the post adds.

Big hurdles on the development front and user adoption landscape are clear, as FierceMobileHealthcare has reported. For instance, many providers and care support teams are wary of mobile health tools, given security and privacy issues, as Allan Ridings, senior risk management and patient safety specialist at the Cooperative of American Physicians, shared in a previous interview. And while mHealth tools and apps can play a tremendous role in helping those suffering from chronic disease, more than a few "buts" remain, as pulmonologist Surya Bhatt, M.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, shared with FierceMobileHealthcare, including continuing weak spots in deployment and implementation of mobile technology to patients.

The research2guidance study reveals several trends taking root that could eliminate today's challenges. For starters, it notes that nearly all app developers are partnering with a medical professionals; what's more, various business approaches are being deployed.

Another trend among app makers is connecting apps to a sensor, third-party API or a platform such as Apple's HealthKit. The most common app feature being integrated is a dashboard, followed by "reminder" capabilities and a communication channel with a patient's doctor.

Sixty percent of app makers expect patient follow-up care and monitoring will be a top focus in the next five years. However, they anticipate that app stores will continue as the dominant domain for such apps, as opposed to providers.

"App stores will remain the main distribution channel for mHealth apps until 2020," the report states. "There is still a lot of hope in the market that eventually doctors and hospitals will become the dominant channel in the near future but this hope constantly decreased since 2010."

 For more information:
- here's the report (.pdf)
- read the blog post

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