Mobile Health Year in Review

The year 2012 was an important one in the history of mobile health. The nascent industry experienced tremendous growth and leaps in technology. Here is how several analyst firms categorized it.

According to a market research firm Global Data, the global mHealth market was worth $1.2 billion in 2011, but will reach $11.8 billion by 2018, climbing at an impressive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39 percent.

Global Data also reported:

  • Software and services account for 80 percent of the mHealth market. Hardware makes up 12 percent and network and connectivity the remaining 12 percent.
  • Some 70 percent of available mobile healthcare apps are consumer focused. The remaining 30 percent are designed for medical professionals.
  • The US is the main market, contributing $660 million to the global mobile health market in 2011. Europe and the Asia-Pacific region contributed $420 million and $120 milion, respectively.

According to a Pew Internet report based on a survey of more than 3,000 adults and released in November, 85 percent of U.S. adults use cell phones and 52 percent of those use smartphones.

The Pew Internet report also found that:

  • 19 percent of smartphone users have a healthcare application on their phone.
  • Caregivers and individuals suffering from health issues were more likely to take advantage of mobile health applications.
  • 80 percent of cell phone users receive text messages, but only six percent receive text health updates.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 64 and those with smartphones were most likely to sign up for health alerts through text messages.
  • Exercise, diet and weight loss are the most common smart phone health applications.

What can we expect in coming years? Another survey from business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan reports that that in the near future we will see more personalized apps, “integrated with electronic medical records. …The most useful health apps are those that combine medical tracking with a doctor’s feedback and personalized coaching.”

The Frost & Sullivan report also sees the rapid development of more sophisticated apps. “While most medical apps today register, remind, and refer, future apps — like vital data monitoring systems featuring small meters that plug directly into a mobile device — will serve diagnostic functions. Web-based apps neutral to mobile operating systems will grow in use with HTML5-compliant mobile browsers. These will include the wide spectrum of healthcare apps so that switching between platforms will no longer mean repurchasing or abandoning one’s favorite app and all the health data related to it.”

Finally, the second annual HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey released December 2 found that 93 percent of physicians use a mobile device daily and 80 percent use the technology to directly influence and improve patient care.

Other findings from the HIMSS survey:

  • 61 percent of physicians used clinical apps developed by a third party or an HIT vendor.
  • Some 65 percent of physicians used apps to view patient information or lab results and look up non-PHI health information.
  • About 45 percent of physicians collected patient data such as vital signs at the bed side.
  • E-prescribing was employed by 37 percent.
  • 71 percent of respondents cited a lack of funding as their major roadblock. About 50 percent said the lack of a dedicated IT staff was impeding their development.

This article was contributed by James Harris, president of, a healthcare technology marketing agency.

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