Just launched: Our 2012 Consumer Health Apps Report

By Brian Dolan

Four years after the launch of the AppStore, growth in the number of available consumer health apps for iPhone users is still accelerating. It's growing more quickly now than ever. There were more consumer health apps in April 2012 than we expected there to be: In July 2011 we predicted that the number of consumer health apps would top 13,000 in July of this year, but that happened at least three months ahead of schedule.

In April of this year there were already more than 13,600 relevant consumer health apps, and that number does not include the thousands of miscategorized and foreign language apps found in the Health & Fitness and Medical categories of of Apple’s AppStore. As we have done for almost three years now, the MobiHealthNews team sifted through Apple’s health-related categories and placed each consumer health app, one-by-one, into more than 80 subcategories of our own for our 2012 definitive, quantitative analysis of consumer health apps for Apple's iPhone.

Consumer_Apps_Intro_PieThis unexpected acceleration in the number of consumer health apps does bring more meaningful app choices for patients, but it also exacerbates the discoverability issue. With so many health and fitness apps available, can the best ones really break out? Certification platforms like Happtique are tackling the issue and an increasing number of medical professional blogs, publications, and journals are popping up to serve up reviews from the provider perspective.

Over the long term we expect these top-down approaches to help drive provider awareness, and while “prescribing” apps will become more common, consumer health app adoption will be driven by patient communities and social networks. The best will bubble up because they work and because these app users will share their stories.

It’s clear from the still rudimentary – though increasingly creative – selection of consumer health tools that health apps still have to amp up their feature set before mass adoption occurs beyond novelty heart rate monitor apps and exercise trackers. As other have noted – including Chris Wasden from PwC – the regulatory environment is pushing some health app developers to pare back some features in an effort to remain unregulated or less regulated. Precious few consumer health apps offer coaching elements – similar to what Wasden calls “intelligence”. Additional regulatory guidance from the FDA may help more developers take their apps beyond reference and tracking and into the realm of coaching and personalized feedback.

Encouragingly, there are now hundreds of apps that focus on various chronic conditions, and many of them enable users to track symptoms or observations of daily living. Diabetes and heart disease-focused management apps are among the largest contingencies of chronic condition management apps, but cardio fitness, dieting, and stress relief apps continue to be the three biggest consumer health categories overall.

Another interesting trend: The price of consumer health apps continues to drop. As we reported in our August 2010 health apps report, the average price of all consumer health apps (including both paid and free apps) was $2.34 at the time. By July 2011 the price fell to $2.20, or by about 14 cents. Since July 2011 the price has dropped an additional 15 cents, making the average price for all consumer-facing health apps as of April 2012: $2.05.

While the price is falling for health-related apps, that still puts the category at the higher end of Apple’s AppStore for average pricepoints.

To learn more about the current state of consumer-facing health apps, join the thousands of others who have purchased MobiHealthNews’ apps reports or subscribe to all of our 2012 paid content reports. For more on MobiHealthNews’ latest research report: An Analysis of Consumer Health Apps for Apple’s iPhone, visit our online research store here.