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Mobile health app marketplace to take off, expected to reach $26B by 2017

Consumers are increasingly relying on mobile applications to help them manage their health and fitness, with the top 10 mobile health apps generating up to four million free and 300,000 paid downloads per day, according to research2guidance.

Currently there are more than 97,000 mobile apps available related to health and fitness, mostly helping users track specific health parameters as well as provide basic information and guidance. The mobile health app marketplace is expected to grow significantly over the next few years as the number of solutions offered increases and new business models are introduced.

?There are lots of reasons that make sense for users to track their health data while they are on the go via a smartphone app,? said Ralf-Gordon Jahns, managing director at research2guidance, Berlin, Germany. ?Doctors can reach out with the help of mobile apps to consult remote experts, they can get biodata for patients while patients are walking around.

?There are lots of use cases where mobile apps in health and fitness make life easier for patients, decrease costs of the treatment and basically improve patients? outcome,? he said.

Critical mass
The mobile health apps available today generally display a low-to-medium level of sophistication, with many providing limited benefits for patients, doctors and health interested smartphone users.

However, there are examples of more sophisticated apps in the market.

Going forward, mobile health apps are expected to become more integrated into traditional health care systems.

Five years from now, the mobile health market will be a mass market with a reach of more than 3.4 billion smartphones and tablets with access to mobile apps, according to research2guidance?s new report, "Mobile Health Market Report 2013-2017: The Commercialization of mHealth Applications."

By 2017, research2guidance forecasts that 50 percent of mobile users will have downloaded mobile health apps.

Commercializing health apps
As the initial trial phase for mobile health apps give ways to the next stage, developers and other stakeholders will be looking for ways to commercialize these apps.

As a result, by the end of 2017, the total mobile health market revenue will have grown by 61 percent on a compound annual growth basis to reach U.S. $26 billion.

With mobile health apps serving as platforms to sell other health services and hardware, the main sources of revenue will not come from app download revenue, but from these mobile health services and hardware sales.

Enhancing the pitch
While pharmaceutical companies in many countries are not allowed to promote their medicines via advertising to consumers, apps can provide a way for these companies to enhance the sales pitch to doctors.

?The challenge for pharma companies is to figure out how to use mobile apps to add value to their existing products, to enhance the actual pill with additional services,? Mr. Jahns said. ?By doing so, they are differentiating their product from the competition.?

The growth in the mobile health app marketplace is based on the assumption that private buyers will continue to be the primary spenders in the next five years, but that the integration of mobile health apps into traditional health care systems will become more and more common during this time.

Because mobile health apps offer the potential to lower health care costs, they could play a significant role in the healthcare industry in the future.

?There are lots of trials have proved that mobile health greatly reduces costs,? Mr. Jahns said

 ?The evidence is there, the technology is there, the solutions are out there," he said. 

?What stops me from saying that this will have a major impact within the next few years is that the health care industry is slow in adopting new technology. They are reluctant, [and] there [are] regulatory issues."

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York