mHealth enters consumer Golden Age

Surge in mHealth users present opportunity for pharma industry
By Erin McCann
10:52 AM

The mobile health market is making a mark -- and it's a big one, as this year saw a record number of U.S. consumers now using mobile phones for health information, according to new industry research. 

Some 95 million Americans are currently using mHealth technologies, up 27 percent from 75 million just in 2012, according to the Manhattan Research Cybercitizen Health study. And these numbers have big implications for pharma marketers. 

Of the more than 8,600 adults surveyed, some 38 percent of smartphone users deemed them "essential" for finding health and medical information, according to the report, which underscores the opportunities for pharma marketers and found that consumers access health information on mobile phones at home, not just on the go.

[See also: Payers embrace mHealth.]

The study also shows that mobile health adoption, activities and attitudes vary greatly among the patient audiences tracked, highlighting the need for marketers to understand mobile behavior by unique therapeutic segments.    

Among the patient audiences who are most likely to be mobile health adopters are those with cystic fibrosis, growth hormone deficiency patients, acne patients, those with ADHD, and people with hepatitis C, researchers say. Patients with migraines or Crohn's disease are also high on the list for mHealth users. 

To complement the surge in new mobile health adopters, officials also anticipate a surge in mHealth applications, a market projected to swell 61 percent by 2017, according to a March report from Research and Markets. In five years, more than 3.4 billion smartphone and tablet users will have access to mHealth apps, officials say, with 50 percent of them actually downloading. 

[See also: mHealth market to hit $10.2B by 2018.]

Currently, the market has hit its commercialization phases, where a massive increase in solutions has occurred. However, missing regulations will prove to be a considerable barrier to entering the integrated phase, where mHealth becomes incorporated in physician treatment plans, that report suggests. 

"Many pharma marketers still underestimate both the opportunity and complexity of the mobile channel," said Monique Levy, vice president of research at Manhattan Research, in an Oct. 24 news release. "Many marketers will need to reset assumptions around when, where and how these devices are used for health. What’s clear is that patients are using these devices throughout the patient journey, for quick questions and deep research, and increasingly to actually manage their condition and care."

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