If you want to find out how much weight you’ve lost since joining the gym, there's an app for that. If you want to keep track of your medications, there's an app for that. And if you want to log your blood pressure or glucose readings over time, there's an app for that, too.
Increasingly, software developers are introducing new health applications at a time when the smartphone market is growing and tablets are the new must-have tool. Added to this, the drive to improve personal health and wellness and the accelerated adoption of electronic medical records have changed the face of healthcare, which now provides the kind of business growth trajectory that high-tech equipment manufacturers and software developers salivate over.
Undoubtedly, the health apps market is a nascent one, and so far most of these apps run on Apple's iPhone and iPad, with the Google Android and other devices trying to catch up. In April, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) launched its own mobile application for the healthcare sector and has enabled some health apps to run on its devices.
Late last month, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) enhanced its HealthVault platform, which stores and maintains health information. To encourage health app developers, the company has built client libraries for constructing standalone HealthVault applications across all of the most popular phone platforms. The software development kit and samples for the Windows Phone 7 are available now and will be made available soon for Apple iOS and Google Android.
Leading the field, Apple's approach, which has been to provide independent health app developers with a software platform that includes a published interface, has allowed developers to create health apps on their own and has helped to promote the Apple brand in the healthcare sector.
As smartphones have seen tremendous adoption rates, health apps for smartphones, have been a driving force for product adoption among healthcare providers. According to a recent report from global market research firm RNCOS, the main driver of growth in mobile health applications is the increasing adoption of smartphones during the past few years. At the end of 2009, smartphone penetration was around 21 percent -- it is expected to be 50 percent by the end of 2011. Further, over 72 percent of physicians are smartphone users, and mobile health applications embedded in smartphones are a main reason for this increased usage, the report notes.
On the tablet front, it will be interesting to see how companies like HP, Dell, and Acer orient their new tablets to the healthcare market and whether they'll be able to encourage software developers to create health apps for these products. Already late to the tablet market, these companies may find that health apps can fuel tablet sales. Another recent study that polled 950 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) members showed that more than 25 percent of respondents plan to deploy the iPad and other iOS devices immediately, and nearly 70 percent plan to deploy the devices this year.
Certainly, the market is ripe for future revenue growth. A recently published PricewaterhouseCooper study found that half of consumers surveyed said they would buy mobile technology to address their health needs. Additionally, 40 percent of respondents would be willing to pay for a monthly mobile phone service or device that could send information to their doctors. Consumers polled said they would prefer to pay less than $10 for the monthly mobile phone service and less than $75 for the device. PwC estimates the annual consumer market for remote/mobile monitoring devices to be $7.7 billion to $43 billion, based on the range consumers said they would be willing to pay.
As OEMs unleash more tablets and smartphones into a market rife with competition, mobile device makers that take the healthcare sector lightly will lose out on what promises to be one of the most lucrative markets to come along in recent years. How these companies position their products in the healthcare sector will tell us a lot about their ability to react to a changing market that demands greater use of mobile devices. If high-tech companies can't make the most of the new opportunities that healthcare affords... well, there's no app for that!