Leslie Schrader's picture

App Happy: Consumers Seek Health at the Touch of a Finger

We all know it – mobile is where to be and that [[wysiwyg_imageupload:145:]]
goes for health and wellbeing. In fact, there are about 9,000 health apps in the iTunes store and that number was projected to increase to 13,000 in the past year.

But what does the demand and growth mean – is it going to go beyond cardio, fitness, stress relief and diet monitoring? All signs point to yes. People are using not just one app but several to help manage, maintain and elevate their personal well-being as well as that of their families. And the expanding usage of these apps provides opportunities for brands and marketers to shape the next great health app.

We are in an age where people wish for apps that monitor the baby or a mobile tool to track blood glucose levels and they are possible. So what are some of the trends in the apps that consumers are demanding and companies will deliver? According to a Mobile Health News article, people are anxiously awaiting apps in the following three categories:

  • Seasonal allergies: Asthmapolis lets us track asthma attacks based on inhaler usage; Sick Weather aggregates social media illness reports to create illness maps. Why not take all of the information about allergies and what is setting them off where to create the ultimate seasonal allergy tracker? Meda Pharmaceuticals is doing just that with Allergy Advisor, but a brand of tissue or a homeopathic medication could take it to the next level and provide the allergy forecast along with simple tips for relief.
  • Mobile doctor’s office: As more doctors go digital and consumers start to realize and make the most of better integrated care, demand will spike for apps that allow users to communicate via mobile with doctors’ offices, from making appointments to consulting about a rash. There are a number of challenges that we need to overcome, but companies, practices and patient advocates have the opportunity to forge a new patient/doctor relationship with the tools that we, frankly, use to communicate with the other important people in our lives.
  • Physical therapy: Fitness apps that instruct us how to run (Couch Potato to 5K is one of my favorite examples) or how to do push-ups are simple ways people are using mobile to get well-being advice. This is a natural space for physical therapy apps, instructionals for specialized and consistent exercises and regimens. During the last year, more than three dozen physical therapy apps launched and this arena provides a platform for companies to position their therapeutic tools and be a resource for consumers.

We can see why there is a constant stream of apps coming into the health and wellness space. Which is why it’s important to remember: nothing worth doing is easy. The more health-focused and revolutionary the app, the more feedback and potential oversight it may draw.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a closer look at health apps and figuring out how to determine which apps are credible. This is especially important with an app that could potentially diagnose an illness, read an X-ray or give an EKG by pressing an iPhone to the chest.

Once again, the U.S. FDA is faced with the challenging questions around light-speed advances in technology and the accuracy of the tools we create. The FDA is being judicious for now – they don’t want oversight of every health app, especially low risk calorie counters or weight trackers. However, they will need to review apps that have significant medical impact, which leads to problems similar to those they have with social media regulation, plus a host of more.

We should speak with colleagues and clients about health and wellness apps that could be beneficial for their target audiences and connect with a real need, as we highlight in Well-th: Ketchum’s Health and Wellness Trend Report. We also should be cautious and counsel appropriately – the higher complexity level of the apps health function and purpose, the more challenges we may face.