Since the appearance of modern technologies, one of the principal goals of humans has been to use them for health purposes. As seen in milliards of films, we have always dreamt of machines that can help us see inside our bodies and heal. And it’s a fact that things have advanced enormously; today, mobile apps help us track our fitness, aid doctors in monitoring patients with chronic illnesses, and much more.
The next step in healthcare and smart technologies is mHealth (Mobile Health). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines mHealth as a device or service facilitating an electronic flow of information enhancing the accessibility and delivery of medical information, support, or solution. mHealth delivers healthcare services through mobile technologies such as mobile devices that enable the remote monitoring of patients.
A key player in this field is Augmented Reality(AR), which has a huge potential in mHealth. As this technology interacts with real world, it can provide the information as and when required by doctors. For example, to find your veins, a nurse can wear a pair of AR glasses that highlights your veins in the device.
Without a doubt, in a modern world full of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, mHealth is a growing trend and one of the main aims in current technology market. According to data from a study by ABI Research, health care apps would grow by more than $400 million every year by 2016. On the disadvantages’ side, we find the risk of data theft, strict regulations by the governments and the low guidance from doctors in selecting apps.
The Future of mHealth: statistics, main segments and major players
At the present time, fitness and wellness services are the fastest-growing segment. Fitness apps are the most common, accounting for 36% of health apps. That’s because they can’t really compromise your health, so they don’t need to be regulated by administrations.
The mHealth solutions market is segmented by product and services into connected medical devices, mHealth applications, and mHealth services. The connected medical devices segment comprises blood glucose meters, ECG monitors, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, peak flow meters, neurological monitoring devices, sleep apnea monitors and multiparameter trackers.
The mHealth apps market is segmented into chronic care management apps, general health and fitness apps, women’s health apps, personal health record and medication management.
Finally, the most offered mHealth services are diagnosis, remote monitoring, prevention, fitness and wellness and treatment services. These mHealth devices and services are mainly used to treat cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases and neurological diseases.
For now, the market is fragmented: 40% of health apps have fewer than 5,000 downloads, and just 36 apps account for nearly half of all health app downloads. 12% percent of health apps account for more than 90% of all consumer downloads.
But it’s clear that mHealth is growing, and reports unveil the market will witness exponential increase in the coming years. mHealth raised $1.2 billion in venture capital in 2014, triple than in 2013. According to reports, mHealth solutions market will reach 59.15 Billion USD by 2020, with North America representing the largest regional market, followed by Europe. The global mHealth market was evaluated at $10.5 billion in 2014, and is expected to register a 33.5% increase from 2015 to 2020.
At the moment, there are more than 165,000 mobile health apps in the United States.
Major players in the mHealth market include Medtronic (U.S.), Apple (U.S.), Sanofi (France), Nike (U.S.), Johnson & Johnson (U.S.), Omron Corporation (Japan), Withings (France), iHealth Lab, Inc. (U.S.), AT&T (U.S.), Qualcomm (U.S) or Cisco (U.S.).
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently declared the company might make a medical device (“Maybe an app, maybe something else”) but it won't be the Apple Watch. The main setback to develop a health device is that anything more advanced than wellness devices has to be regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). This can involve a long process of changes and the Apple Watch is meant to be a mass market product, so it’s better to create a brand new device, just health-oriented. For now, the number of iOS mobile health apps more than doubled in the last two years, and more than 1,000 of these apps had integrated with Apple’s Health App.
Health app comes preinstalled on iOS devices and integrates with other general health apps like Lose it!, Weight Watchers, FitStar, Sleepio and Nike+.
Ranking of best mHealth apps
Here are the Top Health and Medical Apps rated by doctors:
Conclusion: mHealth application and results
In general terms, experts in health care see potential for mHealth to improve the wellness of their patients. Health care providers should promote mHealth if they want to survive in today’s competitive marketplace. However, there remain several barriers, mainly the lack of integration with electronic health records and clinical decision making IT systems, as well as privacy and security issues. A key point for the progress of mHealth is the role of doctors in recommending the right apps to patients: the number of health apps has more than doubled in just two years, so making an accurate selection is basic.
About the application and results of mHealth services, studies showed they are really helpful in determinate situations, like diabetes. In diabetes patients, mobile phones can be quite effective by doctors being kept up-to-date regarding progress of their patients.
With Fitbit activity monitors, doctors can send text messages to their patients. And in fact, in the past months, there was a remarkable improvement of their health, with appreciable control of blood sugar. 7% of patients have indicated that they are willing to move to a healthcare provider who offers mobile technology.
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