Top 5 Therapy Areas that Leveraged mHealth Apps in 2016 – Part 2

by Shweta Mishra

mHealth market is still very young – only 7 years old – but is becoming increasingly dynamic. According to mhealth practitioners, the two key features of mhealth apps that are expected to have highest impact on patient journey over the next five years are, first – remote follow-up monitoring and second – seeking healthcare information.

This prediction already seems to reflect if we compare the top therapy areas that leveraged mhealth apps in 2015 and 2016. According to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics report published in September 2015 mental health topped the list of therapy areas offering maximum market potential to the mhealth sector in 2015. But the trends changed quite a bit in 2016 according to a R2G report published in October 2016. So what was the trend in 2016?

The infographic below gives a comparison of the top 5 therapy areas that leveraged mhealth apps in 2015 and 2016.

 

mhealth apps 2016

Diabetes Mellitus: Diabetes management has consistently been considered as a therapy area offering the strongest market potential, and has always been a popular target for mhealth developers. According to the Research 2 Guidance report 2016, diabetes is expected to continue to be the main target for the industry and “since the first mHealth Economics study in 2010, this has never changed.”

Since diabetes management is mainly based on remote blood glucose monitoring, diabetes topped the list in 2016, being best supported by mhealth apps for its treatment and management, comprising 73% of the total market share.

Here is a list of the best diabetes apps of 2016 as rated by Healthline, based on user reviews and overall impact.

 

Obesity: Weight management and obesity apps are very popular ones. However, according to a study on current market characteristics on obesity apps, most of the apps on weight management currently lack professional content expertise. The authors of this study suggest the app developers to use evidence-based online approaches to improve and assure the quality of the app, which would encourage practitioners to recommend them to their patients.

Here is a list of the best weight loss apps of 2016 by Healthline, based on user reviews and overall impact in making a valuable contribution in weight loss efforts by the users.

Contributing towards tackling childhood obesity, recently, “Sugar Smart” app was launched by Change4Life, Public Health England’s (PHE) brand aimed at children, to raise awareness of the health problems linked to eating too much sugar, salt and saturated fats amongst kids.

 

Hypertension: Hypertension related apps covered 29% of the market share in 2016. However many of the blood pressure monitoring apps are not FDA approved. Infact, experts warn against using apps that just ask you to press your finger on the mobile screen, and say that they may give dangerously misleading results.

In a study estimating the validity of a blood pressure measuring app, Dr Timothy B Plante (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD) found that the app “underestimated higher BPs and overestimated lower BPs,”. Existence and use of such apps calls for strict regulations in place to guide the mhealth developers.

Dr. Nilay Kumar, a physician at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance suggests to “check with your own doctor before taking advice from an app” since a very few of these apps are developed in collaboration with a health care agency such as a university or professional organization.

Withings and iHealth are two FDA-approved devices that feature blood pressure monitors with cuffs that wrap around the upper arm or wrist. These monitors send BP readings wirelessly to a smartphone. Both have apps that are downloaded directly from the cuff manufacturers.

 

Depression: Depression can be caused by varied factors such as trauma, life circumstances, genetics, substance/drug abuse, brain structure, or other medical illnesses.

Mental health apps covered maximum range in the mhealth market in 2015. But the percentage of mental health apps declined in 2016, with pouring in of diabetes apps. Nevertheless, similar to diabetes management, remote monitoring of related symptoms has been helpful in mental health management. Mental health apps make the treatment process more portable and accessible.

A group of researchers from Northwestern University A team of scientists at Northwestern University created a set of 13 free “mini-apps” collectively called IntelliCare Mini Apps, that are designed to be used “on the go for just a minute or two” in order to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The research team found that these apps may reduce depression and anxiety symptoms by up to 50%, which is similar to the effect of the psychotherapy and medication.

Depression or mental health related apps cover 27% of market share.

Here is a list of apps trusted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

 

CHD: Heart disease rank number 1 in death causing disease. Despite this fact, this therapy area did not seem to attract much attention, being at number 5 in terms of total number of related mhealth apps available even in 2016. According to health research group Research 2 Guidance, CHD occupied 16% of the total mhealth market share in 2016.

Recently, Stanford University launched version 2.0 of its ResearchKit app MyHeart Counts that was launched in 2015. MyHeart Counts is an app based cardiovascular health study that aims to put together one of the largest cardiovascular health studies ever. The users of this app can complete surveys, share activity data, perform assessments like the 6-minute walk test, and more. The new version has a coaching module that will guide the users through a week of baseline measurements, followed by four one-week behavior-change interventions.

Here is a list of some of the best heart disease apps.

 

I think more and more patients continue to put their faith in mHealth technology, but the practitioners want it all to be more evidence based, to be able to recommend it. So, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders involved to ensure that the key barriers of security and privacy of patient data is addressed. mHealth developers must come out with innovative ways to address healthcare system integration needs and the regulators must ensure to establish clear regulatory guidelines that facilitate a safe, sustainable and beneficial mHealth ecosystem.

Applied will be keenly following mHealth developments in 2017 and will keep you updated. Until then, if you are planning to use an app to monitor your disease progress, don’t forget to discuss it with your doctor and choose your apps wisely.

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