How many health apps actually matter?

“Without guidance patients may choose popular apps or try several in an effort to self-determine the best."
By Jack McCarthy
07:53 AM

Apps are all the rage in healthcare and pretty much everywhere else. Despite so much buzz about consumers using mobile healthcare apps, however, the options proving useful are few and far between.

With some 165,000 health-related apps available, in fact, a mere 36 comprise nearly 50 percent of downloads. Not to be confused with 36 percent, that's a total of 36 applications, according to a study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics that analyzed 26,000 apps. 

Two key data points illustrate how almost all of the apps fall short: Just 10 percent can connect to a device or sensor while a mere 2 percent sync into providers' systems, IMS found, and that functionality could greatly improve both accuracy and convenience of data collection.

Nonetheless, there is growing interest in the use of mHealth apps for chronic disease management, with almost a quarter focused on this segment. And providers are showing encouraging signs of interest, with more than a third of physicians reporting having recommended an mHealth app to patients.

IMS also pointed to roadblocks between the current scenario and apps thriving in a prescriptive and integrated manner, including a lack of scientific evidence and provisions for reimbursement as well as regulatory and privacy unknowns.

"Efforts will continue to accelerate as hospitals meet meaningful use requirements for greater integration and data capture, reimbursement moves towards value-based payment and evidence increases around the added value of mHealth adoption in chronic disease management," the study noted.

Consumers, meanwhile, appear to be trying to find the best apps to use largely on their own.

"Without guidance from their healthcare provider, patients may either choose the most popular apps or try several in an effort to self-determine the best app for their particular situation," the study said.

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