Mobile Health Application Supply Grows 78 Percent: Report

A new report by the Website MobiHealthNews shows substantial growth for mobile applications that serve as a health resource, though health-monitoring tools lagged in use.

The Website MobiHealthNews has published a report showing growth in mobile reference applications for the medical field.

In the report "The Fastest Growing and Most Successful Health & Medical Apps," MobiHealthNews says the number of mobile health applications has grown by 78 percent, though about 20 percent of mobile users in the United States are using smartphones.

Medical reference applications saw more growth than applications that monitored conditions or vital signs, the report stated. Between Feb. 9 and Aug. 24, health reference applications grew 91.7 percent, compared with 34.5 percent for applications related to chronic disease, the study reveals.

Among the most popular mobile health applications are WebMD's Medscape and Epocrates.

"Chronic condition management apps will become more successful and more numerous once personal connected health devices become available," Brian Dolan, editor of MobiHealthNews, said in an e-mail to eWEEK.

"Many of these devices are under review by the FDA, which is currently working to better understand wireless connected medical devices and related software to determine how to best approach regulation of these devices and services," Dolan said. "Once the FDA sheds more light on the regulatory environment for connected health devices, a flood of smartphone apps will enter app stores to help users better visualize the data they collect," he said.

Meanwhile, electronic medical records applications that provide remote access for charge capture or e-prescribing led to growth of more than 86 percent, Dolan said.

Although Apple's App Store had the most health applications, at 7,136 as of September, Google's Android Store was the fastest-growing, followed by BlackBerry App World.

Applications that required the least interaction were more popular than those that help users manage their vital health data or chronic conditions, MobiHealthNews found.

"Anyone who can develop an app can create a medical reference app," Dolan explained. "Some of the most successful ones are simple flashcard apps that offer a series of simple facts about various health topics. Any developer can create an app that repurposes general health information."

In Apple's top 1,000 applications for health and fitness, more than 200 applications focused on cardio exercises such as running and biking, while at least 150 related to diet, according to Dolan.

Also, about 580 applications in Apple's health and fitness group were related to medical references, he said.

"As personal health information begins to flow from electronic medical records and from personal health devices, the number of personal health apps will spike," Dolan said. "That's when consumer health apps will begin to realize the true potential of mobile platforms."

However, in a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, only 15 percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 had installed applications on their mobile phones to manage and track their health, though 96 percent of Americans in that age range own a mobile phone.

"While hundreds of new health-related apps flood the market each week, the ones that bubble up to the top-and stay there-are the ones that put the consumer and the patient in the middle and empower them to make better use of their personal health information," MobiHealthNews concluded in the report.