Medical Apps, mHealth Apps & Their Future

The medical apps market is estimated at $489 million in 2015, up from $85 million just five years ago, according to a mHealth Markets Worldwide report from Kalorama.

MHealth apps are projected to grow at an annual average rate of almost 28 percent through 2020 – reaching a market potential of about $1.7 billion, according to the Kalorama report. This is compared with the total app market potential of about $61.4 billion in 2020, growing at a rate of almost 20 percent over the same period.

The report indicates growth for medical apps is estimated at 41.9 percent compounded annually over the past 5 years, while the growth for all apps is combined at 38.1 percent. ‘In terms of revenue, medical apps have grown a tad bit faster than other app categories,’ said Bruce Carlson, publisher of the Kalorama Information. ‘Price and a willing user-base are factors.’

Over 5 years ago, about 25 percent of doctors in the US used a PDA or smartphone for professional uses. This increased to 35-40 percent in 2008 and by 2010, more than half of physicians used smartphones or PDAs on a regular basis for treatment activity.

Today, upwards of 70 percent of physicians and medical workers use mobile medical applications on a regular basis. One of the most widely-used medical apps for mobile devices is for medical records. More than half of physicians used smartphones or PDAs on a regular basis for treatment activity.

But mobile app market share has remained low. In 2010, the medical apps market was only 1.73 percent of the total mobile app market, as it competes with application categories such as gaming, entertainment, social networking and navigation. ‘They can’t compete on downloads with entertainment apps, but medical apps can earn a larger price and build a loyal customer base that’s invested in the product,’ Carlson said.

In a Research2Guidance survey on mHealth application development, survey participants within the industry agree potential is huge – stating the onslaught of fitness and other consumer-oriented health apps have paved the way for medical applications. In the last few years, the perception of mHealth has become increasingly business oriented and it has now entered into the commercialization phase.

The survey indicates the number of mHealth apps published on the two leading platforms, iOS and Android, has more than doubled in less than three years and market revenue has reached $2.4 billion in 2013 – projecting to grow to $26 billion by the end of 2017. The study, which is conducted yearly by Research2Guidance, finds today’s mHealth app publishers and wannabes predominately target chronically ill patients (31 percent) and health and fitness oriented consumers (28 percent) and lastly, physicians (14%). mHealth app publishers have released an average of seven mHealth apps – the majority, (36%) have entered the market only recently and mHealth app publishers usually hire an average of 3-10 (23 percent) or 11-100 (23%) employees, the report states.

Economically successful mHealth application publishers stand out, thanks to their relatively larger app portfolio, experience in the market, use of tools for the app development monitoring process, connection to medical databases, apps and sensors. They focus more on iOS as compared to commercially unsuccessful publishers. In years to come, studies show fitness apps will no longer be the top application category in mhealth.

Several studies show, in years to come, fitness apps, which constitute the app category with the highest business potential for mHealth publishers, will diminish in their relative importance and in five years, will no longer be the top application category, giving way to remote monitoring (including wearables and diagnostics) and consultation applications.

Researchers within Healthcare Informatics, Research2Guidance and Pew agree physicians and hospitals will be the top-ranked distribution channel for mHealth apps and the underlying assumption is again, within this timeframe, mHealth applications will become well-integrated into the healthcare processes overall. It goes without saying the mHealth application market is largest within developed countries, although mHealth publishers from countries which belong to the developing and least-developed regions rate the business potential of these regions as high for countries like the USA, UK, Japan and Germany.

Writer’s Note: The mHealth App Developer Economics study, which is quoted largely here and conducted each year, is the largest of its kind and encompasses a wide variety of application developers and business leaders – including healthcare providers – in conducting its research.