Healthcare apps are growing substantially from 17,000 health-related applications in 2011

Infotech Lead America: Healthcare apps are growing substantially from roughly 17,000 health-related applications for iPhones, Android-based devices, and other smart phones and tablets in 2011.

Frost & Sullivan says health apps can perform relatively simple tasks, such as counting calories, and help consumers and healthcare professionals track, monitor, and share personal-health information for a variety of increasingly complex conditions, including heart failure, respiratory illness, and mental illness.

Currently, simple apps that are easily downloadable for smart phones or tablets constitute the majority of mHealth-related apps. They require relatively unsophisticated tools and calculators with lower-levels of security and analytics than apps intended for healthcare professionals. A persistent trend is that most healthcare apps track workouts or diets.

Despite the promising future of mobile health apps, there are several issues that have to be addressed before patients and doctors can truly enjoy the benefits of mobile health, according to Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst, Malgorzata Filar.

Achieving sustained health outcome depends on consumer engagement with health treatments. Many chronic conditions require careful adherence to voluntary behaviors, such as monitoring nutrition, managing weight, and exercising healthy choices. The best piloted programs often fail because these lifestyle changes are hard to follow consistently over a continued period of time.

Another obstacle comes from physicians who may not encourage or even dissuade patients from the use of mHealth apps. Clinicians fear that as consumers become empowered with information about price, quality, services, and wait times, doctors will lose control over revenues and how medicine is practiced. They are afraid that the traditional role of the doctor as a guide to health treatments will weaken as consumers rely on mobile health apps or access Websites on their smart phones to direct their own healthcare.

While tablets and smart phones combined with mobile apps have the potential to improve patient care, apps should provide some clinical decision-making data to truly add any value to the quality of care. However, without quality clinical research to back them up, they may be a waste of IT resources.

Nevertheless, with telehealth and at-home care for the aging emerging as new care delivery models, rising adoption of mobile devices and advancing mobile technology, the demand for mHealth apps will continue to grow.

With more personalized, sophisticated, web-based healthcare applications there is a promising market for health apps developers and technology vendors.

Mobile network operators perceive mHealth as a natural extension of their core activities. Moreover, with the huge influx of medical data from sensors and other devices, there will be an increased need for advanced data analytics tools and companies focused on data management. The business around mHealth should thrive and become mutually beneficial for all involved.

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