Smartphones to drive mHealth to 500 million users?

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 16, 2010        

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Research2GuidanceIn 2015 there will be 1.4 billion smartphone users, according to a new report from research2guidance, and 500 million of them will use health applications. In less than five years, one third of all smartphone users worldwide will use health-related apps on their phone. According to recent surveys conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, currently nine percent of all mobile phone users in the US have downloaded an app to track or manage their health. While research2guidance’s report is global in scope, it’s clear we still have a long way to go to reach 500 million smartphone users with mHealth apps.

Given the millions of runners using some of the most popular fitness tracking apps and the millions of people who have downloaded WebMD’s smartphone app, I think in four year’s time smartphone health adoption numbers will be significant. The increasingly improved mobile browser-based Web experience, however, could deflate the app bubble. Why download an app when you can Google?

Also, SMS-based mobile health services like Text4Baby in the US and mDhil in India have both crossed the 100,000 user mark this year. Mobile health applications and services that do not require smartphones will likely be necessary to drive the number of mHealth users up to 500 million in four years time.

The research2guidance report’s other surprising number — though for different reasons — was the number of mobile health apps currently available via app stores: 17,000 health apps, according to research2guidance.

That’s a tough one to swallow.

MobiHealthNews has spent considerable time analyzing the health-related apps available in app stores and have found hundreds of miscategorized apps within the categories of “health,” “medical” and “fitness”. For those app stores boasting the greatest number of health-related apps, Apple’s AppStore, BlackBerry App World and Android Market, the combined total for health-related apps as of this past September was less than 9,000. Nokia’s store and Windows-focused app stores only have a few dozen health-related apps each.

Which app stores did the other 8,000+ health-related apps come from?

The research2guidance report also claims that 43 percent of health apps available to today are aimed at care providers. According to our own research, far fewer health apps are actually aimed at health care professionals — less than 30 percent, in fact.

The topline results from the research2guidance report do include some useful bits, however: Apps won’t be the revenue drivers for mHealth in the future. Mobile health services will make up 46 percent of the market’s revenue while “device sales” (assumedly connected health devices) will account for 30 percent. Apps will only make up about 14 percent of mHealth’s total revenue in 2015, according to research2guidance.

The research2guidance report’s featured diagram is included below:

Research2GuidanceMore on the research2guidance report here