The free medical app that currently makes more money than any paid one

By: Brian Dolan | May 8, 2012        

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Skyscape Medical Resources iPhone appLast November Physicians Interactive, which offer the popular Skyscape series of medical apps, began consolidating its many wares into one “destination” app, called Skyscape Medical Resources. The app is free to download but this week it topped Apple’s list of “Top Grossing” apps in the medical category. It’s the only top 10 grossing app on the list that’s free to download.

While the Skyscape Medical Resources app freely offers medical resources focused on drug information, medical calculators, and clinical information for more than 850 medical topics, the app also leverages Apple’s in-app purchasing functionality to offer users more than 600 premium resources that span 35 specialties. All in-app purchases are done through Apple’s AppStore but the new features are populated within the consolidated Skyscape Resources app. The company went from having hundreds of smartphone apps to just a few. Eventually, the strategy is to progress to just one app with in-app purchases, except for a few one-off apps PI develops with medical events partners and pharmaceutical companies.

“It seems to be working,” Sanjay Pingle, president of Physicians Interactive’s pharmaceutical business unit told MobihealthNews in a recent interview. “The user ratings have gone up over the past few months since we [implemented] this one app strategy and made Skyscape a destination for purchasing other apps. The sales have also responded, as you can see from our positioning in Apple’s AppStore. We are happy with it so far.”

Pingle said that the free Skyscape Medical Resources app has averaged about 100,000 downloads per month over the past three months, and that includes total downloads across iOS, Android, and BlackBerry. Apple and Android make up about 90 percent of those downloads, he said, and Apple still commands a larger share than Android, but Android users are growing more quickly, he said.

Apple lists the top 10 in-app purchases for Skyscape Medical Resources and nearly all of the most popular upgrades are priced at $49.99 or above. Pingle said that most in-app purchases are north of $50, but most people who choose to upgrade buy just a few additional resources. Pingle said it is rare for a user to buy five or more, for example, but he declined to disclose more metrics.

Given Skyscape’s in-app library of more than 600 resources, you could argue Skyscape Resources is a dedicated AppStore within the AppStore for medical professionals. Pingle said he hasn’t paid too much attention to other industry efforts, like the one underway by Happtique, to collate a list of apps for medical professionals, but he does believe Physicians Interactive has a role to play in helping healthcare professionals sift through the increasing volume of health apps in the marketplace.

While selling content has proven successful for the company, Pingle said, Physicians Interactive’s next move is to open up their interface and create APIs so that others can leverage the systems that the company has built around Skyscape. Pingle sees an opportunity “down the line” to use the Skyscape platform for interchange of data between medical apps.

Check out the top in-app purchases on the left-hand column of the page for Skyscape Medical Resources over at iTunes here.

  • Gino Korolev

    I doubt that Skyscape would be allowed to use in-app purchase capabilities to effectively create another AppStore with 3rd party apps within the Apple AppStore. In fact, Apple made it pretty clear when Kindle and Nook apps were forced to remove in-app purchasing directly from the application (granted it may have been because it wasn’t a true in-app purchase from Apple’s perspective and Apple wasn’t getting its cut on those sales). Having said that, in-app growth trend has been documented:  (see http://paidcontent.org/2012/01/17/419-do-you-buy-this-free-apps-with-in-app-purchases-will-dominate-over-paid/ ). So, I guess it makes sense that we’ll see some consolidation of apps into customizable toolkits.