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8 lessons Apple is learning from 8 mobile health apps

Jacqueline Emigh | Nov. 4, 2015
Open your phone and say Ahh.

Meanwhile, in September, IBM Watson Health and Sage Bionetworks agreed to work on an “open biomedical research platform” made up of the Bridge Server and Synapse technologies powered by Watson Health Cloud and Analytics. “The implementation is currently being worked out,” Bot told ITworld.

mHealth market is set to soar

“I think the market is probably significantly underestimated," said Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a televised interview soon after Apple’s announcement of its first set of ResearchKit partnerships.

In fact, the mHealth technology market is changing so quickly that it’s hard for market projections to keep pace. However, in a detailed five-year roadmap published last year, industry analyst firm research2guidance projected that the mobile health apps market grew from about $2.5 billion in 2012 to $6.4 billion in 2014 and will reach $26.6 billion in 2017. The analyst firm pointed to big changes between 2012 and 2014, as perceptions of mHealth became increasingly businesslike and the market entered the commercialization phase.

Developers are using iOS and Android to target both the fitness and chronic disease markets in a rapidly growing way, with the number of apps doubling in two-and-a-half years to reach 100,000 in the first quarter of 2014.

Still, mHealth developers represent a very mixed bag, ranging from small mom-and-pop shops with revenues of zero to $10,000 to behemoths raking in $1 million or more annually through downloads, in-app purchases, services, and/or sales of sensor-driven hardware devices such as wristbands, scales, or blood pressure units.

By 2017, the majority of income for mHealth app publishers (69%) will come from services. “These services typically involve backend structures of servers and/or teams of medical staff which monitor and consult with doctors, patients and general healthcare-interested individuals,” according to research2guidance’s report, which is based on surveys of developers of all sizes.

The two app categories with the highest expected market potential in the near future are remote monitoring and consultation.

The analyst firm foresees increased market acceleration as early as 2016, when the mHealth market will have entered the “integrated market phase,” featuring integrated healthcare solutions together with first-time payments for mHealth services by insurance companies.

The road ahead

ResearchKit apps, which are largely about experimenting with various features for remote disease monitoring and diagnosis, aren't even in the category of commercial apps – not yet, anyway.

“This initiative from Apple will [not] have a major impact on the market in the next few years,” says Ralf-Gordon Jahns, managing director of research2guidance. Rather, he asserts, ResearchKit “is more of a [toolset] for helping to provide evidence for medical outcomes than for directly generating revenues and downloads.”

Still, though, the lessons learned from ResearchKit apps will likely inform and influence the design of other categories of mHealth apps, many of which could generate huge revenues, indeed.


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