Challenges Facing a Mobile Health App

From Anne Giles Clelland:

As I prepare to attend and present at the mHealth Summit, these numbers and statements make me thoughtful. Challenges and opportunities abound for mobile health apps.

  • 13,000 health-related iPhone apps were available for consumer use by the summer of 2012. (Source: Oracle citing MobiHealthNews, May 2012)
  • Most of the 95 percent of the mobile health apps offered directly to consumers have not been tested. (Source: Clinical Advisor citing Julie Kientz, PhD, director of the Computing for Healthy Living and Learning Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, November 2012)
  • ‘Virtually any app that claims it will cure someone of a disease, condition or mental health condition is bogus,’ says John Grohol, an expert in online health technology, pointing out that the vast majority of apps have not been scientifically tested. ‘Developers are just preying on people’s vulnerabilities.'” (Source: Washington Post, November 2012)
  • “At $.99 per download, we would need over 100,000 paid downloads to break even on our labor…” (Source: Handshake 2.0, How Much Does a Mobile App Cost? A Case Study, June 2012)
  • Only 10% of smartphone owners have downloaded health apps. (Source: Mashable citing Pew, July 2012)

The challenge for a mobile health app is meeting the overlapping, sometimes conflicting, needs of stakeholders:

  • users / patients who long for the app to help them, to not reveal their private information, and to be affordable – the app, the mobile device, and the connectivity,
  • clinicians who need the app to be evidence-based and research-proven in order to have confidence in the app to use it with patients or prescribe it to them,
  • mobile app development companies – or mobile development divisions within health care companies or organizations – that need development costs covered, the app to be used by users, and the project itself to have a sound business model, whether by generating profit or cutting costs,
  • all of us need the infrastructure to make mobile health access and reach possible locally, nationally and globally.

These challenges, of course, also represent opportunities in the mobile health industry.  I look forward to learning about both at the mHealth Summit whose mission is “Connecting the Mobile Health Ecosystem.” With an anticipated 400+ speakers and 4500+ attendees from 50+ countries, that mission is accomplished.  Congratulations to the organizers of the mHealth Summit and I will be delighted and honored to be among the 4500+!

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