New mobile health apps face a challenge in gaining recognition and adoption in the mHealth app market, where a miniscule fraction of the apps have nearly 50% of the market.
There are more than 165,000 consumer mobile health apps, according to research from healthcare technology service provider IMS Health, and 36 of those apps account for almost half of app downloads. Greater than 90% of downloads come from a mere 12% of the available mHealth apps. The vastness of the mHealth app market makes it unsurprising that so few applications are established as consumers’ favorites. People may download an app based on suggestions from friends or medical professionals, but they’re unlikely to take the time to thoroughly evaluate which app works best for them — especially when there are more than 100,000 possibilities.
Users are more likely to stick with an mHealth app if it was recommended to them by healthcare professional, at least for a limited time. The IMS report noted that 30-day retention rates for apps were 10% higher among patients that were “prescribed” to download and operate a specific app by a healthcare employee. Under that same directive, the retention rate for fitness apps was 30%.
IMS Health found 34% of mHealth apps can connect to social networks, up from 26% in 2013. While social connectivity improved, not as much progress was made concerning mobile health apps hooking into providers’ electronic healthcare systems, such as EHRs. Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, addressed what’s preventing app and provider collaboration and said, “Healthcare providers are actively addressing the remaining barriers. These include… creating practical reimbursement models and ensuring true interoperability within and across healthcare systems.”
Mobile health apps could communicate with more healthcare systems and become a larger part of patient care if the recent increase in clinical trials on mHealth apps gives providers conclusive proof that apps are worth their time. There are 300 clinical trials underway using mobile apps, more than twice the 135 trials conducted two years ago.