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Checking out 16,275 Patient Health Apps

By Clive Riddle, November 1, 2013

The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, part of IMS Health, this week released  their report: Patient Apps for Improved Healthcare: From Novelty to Mainstream, which examined all 16,275 apps directly related to consumer patient health and treatment (out of a total 43,689 health care apps,  of which 7,407 are for health care professionals) available from the Apple ITunes store.

Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics had this to say after releasing the report: “The movement toward digital therapeutics is clear. Mobile health apps have the potential to drive a disruptive shift in patient engagement and healthcare delivery. Harnessing the power of apps has become a focal point of innovation, yet barriers remain to their broad and systematic use by providers and patients. Development of clear evidence on the benefits of driving positive behavioral changes and improving health outcomes will be key to breaking through the barriers.”

The IMS analysis involved categorizing apps based on providing one or more of these functionalities:

  • Inform:  Provide information in a variety of formats (text, photo, video)
  • Instruct:  Provide instructions to the user
  • Record: Capture user entered data
  • Display: Graphically display user entered data/output user entered data
  • Guide:  Provide guidance based on user entered information, and may further offer a diagnosis,  or recommend a consultation with a physician/a course of treatment
  • Remind/Alert: Provide reminders to the user
  • Communicate: Provide communication with HCP/patients and/or provide links to social networks

Here’s some key points from their 65 page report:

  • More than 90% of healthcare apps reviewed by the IMS Institute scored less than 40 out of a possible 100 for functionality, based on 25 screening factors.
  • While 10,840 of the 16,275 apps reviewed can provide and display information, less than half of those can also provide instructions and approximately 20% can also capture user-entered data.
  • More than 50% of available healthcare apps have been downloaded fewer than 500 times.
  • Five apps account for 15% of all downloads in the healthcare category
  • Patients over the age of 65 are among the top users of healthcare resources, yet  only 18% of the elderly U.S. population use smartphones, compared with 55% of consumers age 45-54

The report identifies these four issues that must be address, ”in order for apps to move from novelty to mainstream”:

  1. There must be recognition of the role apps can play in healthcare by payers and providers, as well as regulators and policymakers.
  2. Security and privacy guidelines and assurances established among providers, patients and app developers.
  3. A systematic evaluation of apps to inform their appropriate use.
  4. The effective integration of apps with other aspects of patient care.

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