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mHealth apps will be worth $26B by 2017 and reach 1.7B users

By Jennifer Bresnick

A new study by Research2Guidance predicts that the booming mHealth market will grow to $26 billion by 2017, reaching a worldwide market of 1.7 billion users looking to use their smartphones and tablets to take care of their health.  Currently, there are about 97,000 mobile health applications available from a number of different app stores, with 15% of them dedicated to medical professionals instead of patients and popular consumers.

“Finally there is evidence that the long-expected mobile revolution in healthcare is set to happen,” the report says.  Dividing the mobile landscape into three phases, the study indicates that the commercialization of health apps places us in the middle of the mHealth timeline.  Developers have passed the trial phase, and technology has progressed to the point where the consumer, enterprise, and healthcare provider markets are capable of capitalizing on apps that reach an increasingly wider audience.

“With more and more traditional healthcare providers joining the mobile applications market, the business models will broaden to include healthcare services, sensor, advertising and drug sales revenues,” the study predicts.  However, true integration will be stymied if the government fails to institute regulations, allowing providers to use mHealth freely for patient care and encouraging insurance companies to cover such applications.  The FDA is beginning to issue guidance about medical apps, but the marketplace remains open to any developer touting their apps as “medical” in nature, even if the claim is false.

However, as smartphones become ever more powerful and tablets saturate the landscape, revenue from the mobile market will continue to increase.  The study predicts that up to 84% of revenue will not come from paid downloads, but from extra equipment such as sensors and monitoring devices that patients and providers will link to their phones and tablets.  Developers are already exploring wearable technology such as wristbands and sensors that use Bluetooth to upload data such as heart rate, temperature, and blood glucose to a cloud repository.

“This growth projection is based on the assumption that private buyers will continue to be the primary spenders in the next five years,” the report says, “but that the integration of mHealth applications into traditional health care systems will become more and more common during that time.”

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