IMS Health Study: Patient Options Expand as Mobile Healthcare Apps Address Wellness and Chronic Disease Treatment Needs

  • More than 165,000 mHealth Apps Available
  • Connectivity to Sensors and Wearables Drive Use
  • Retention Rates Higher When Physicians Prescribe Apps

DANBURY, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The number of mobile health applications available to consumers now
surpasses 165,000, as developers incorporate innovative data collection
features linked to sensors and wearables, according to a new report
released today by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. While
most available apps focus on overall wellness, healthcare systems and
professionals are expressing greater interest and excitement in broader
app use as barriers to mainstream adoption of mHealth are
removed—especially in the area of chronic disease management.

The IMS Institute study found that one in ten apps now has the
capability to connect to a device or sensor, providing biofeedback and
physiological function data from the patient and greatly extending the
accuracy and convenience of data collection. Nearly a quarter of
consumer apps are now focused on disease and treatment management, while
two-thirds target fitness and wellness. The number and variety of
mHealth apps present an overwhelming set of options for consumers,
resulting in 40 percent of apps having fewer than 5,000 downloads.

The study, Patient Adoption of mHealth: Use, Evidence and Remaining
Barriers to Mainstream Acceptance,
extends the IMS Institute’s
examination of consumer-focused mobile apps in the health system
conducted in 2013. Researchers drew on IMS Health’s proprietary
AppScript Score database and analysis of 26,864 apps available in the
U.S. Apple iTunes and Android app stores—a representative sample of the
most widely used mHealth apps by consumers. As part of the study, the
IMS Institute also conducted structured interviews with health- and
technology-focused thought leaders and executives on the role and status
of healthcare apps.

“While much progress has been made over the past two years, mHealth apps
are still far from being a fully integrated component of healthcare
delivery,” said Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute
for Healthcare Informatics. “Healthcare providers are actively
addressing the remaining barriers. These include developing and adopting
trusted platforms for ongoing apps curation and evaluation, creating
practical reimbursement models and ensuring true interoperability within
and across healthcare systems.”

The report’s key findings include the following:

  • App connectivity becomes a major focus for developers. In
    addition to improved user data collection capability, during the past
    two years the percentage of mHealth apps with the capability to
    connect to social networks increased from 26 percent to 34 percent,
    underscoring the importance of social networking in consumer
    engagement. Less progress has been made in enabling apps to connect
    and communicate with provider healthcare systems—a fundamental
    requirement for mHealth to realize its full value in healthcare
  • Overwhelming choice without guidance limits usefulness of
    healthcare apps.
    The total number of available mHealth apps is
    growing rapidly, including a 106 percent increase in the number of
    health-related Apple iOS apps since 2013. This can present an
    intimidating number of choices for consumers, leading some to simply
    select the most popular app and others to try multiple apps in an
    effort to determine what is best for them. The study found that just
    12 percent of mHealth apps account for more than 90 percent of all
    consumer downloads, with nearly half of all downloads generated by
    just 36 apps. Physicians also struggle with the number of apps
    available and the limited mechanisms for assessing accuracy, efficacy
    and appropriateness for their patients. Platforms for rating,
    evaluating and, in some cases, certifying apps are becoming available
    to providers—enabling them to more confidently prescribe apps as part
    of disease prevention and treatment protocols. Moreover, 30-day
    retention rates for mHealth apps prescribed by a healthcare
    professional are 10 percent higher than those self-selected by
    patients. For prescribed fitness apps, the retention rate is 30
    percent higher.
  • A growing movement is underway to build evidence supporting the
    value of mHealth apps.
    The majority of research studies to date
    focus on app usage rather than their effectiveness in improving
    patient outcomes or lowering healthcare costs. However, momentum is
    building for observational studies and randomized clinical trials that
    will yield evidence to support the value of apps, specifically in the
    areas of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and mental
    health. The number of clinical trials using mobile apps has more than
    doubled in the past two years, rising from 135 to 300. The majority of
    trials underway are interventional, underscoring the importance of
    providing rigorous study results to physicians in need of evidence
    that supports integration of apps in their treatment protocols. Demand
    has increased for larger clinical trials in an effort to better
    examine sub-populations of app users. Of the large mHealth app
    clinical trials that recruit patients, 53 percent are directed at the
    senior population—a key demographic that requires healthcare
    management and is targeted for increased app utilization.
  • Providers agree that the value mHealth apps can deliver is high,
    but barriers to full adoption remain.
    Among healthcare providers
    interviewed by the IMS Institute, most are confident that mHealth can
    improve overall outcomes, reduce the cost of healthcare and encourage
    patients to take a more active role in improving their health.
    Providers emphasized that mHealth data integrated with electronic
    healthcare records is critical to better clinical decision making and
    patient communication. With the universal enthusiasm expressed for
    mHealth, providers urged stakeholders to actively address remaining
    barriers, including: limited connectivity and integration into
    workflow systems; a slow paradigm shift in reimbursement processes and
    delivery of care; data confidentiality, privacy, security and
    regulatory uncertainties; lack of scientific evidence to measure the
    efficacy of apps; and the inability to reach the most vulnerable
    cohorts of patients—mainly the elderly or non-English speaking.

The full report, including a detailed description of the methodology, is
available at
It can also be downloaded as an app via iTunes at
The study was produced independently as a public service, without
industry or government funding.

About the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics

The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics provides key policy setters
and decision makers in the global health sector with unique and
transformational insights into healthcare dynamics derived from granular
analysis of information. It is a research-driven entity with a worldwide
reach that collaborates with external healthcare experts from across
academia and the public and private sectors to objectively apply IMS
Health’s proprietary global information and analytical assets. More
information about the IMS Institute can be found at:

About AppScript

AppScript™ is the leading discovery and distribution platform for mobile
health technologies. The AppScript team has curated and characterized
thousands of mobile healthcare apps, hundreds of connected devices, and
millions of pieces of educational content by condition and stage of the
patient journey. Each mobile health technology is assessed using the
company’s proprietary IMS Health AppScript Score, which ranks apps and
devices based on six primary metrics: functionality, professional
reviews, patient reviews, endorsements, developer trust ratings and
clinical ratings. AppScript enables any healthcare professional to
securely prescribe, track and reconcile mobile health content prescribed
to patients and caregivers. Learn more at

About IMS Health

IMS Health is a leading global information and technology services
company providing clients in the healthcare industry with comprehensive
solutions to measure and improve their performance. End-to-end
proprietary applications and configurable solutions connect 10+
petabytes of complex healthcare data through the IMS OneTM
cloud platform, providing comprehensive insights into diseases,
treatments, costs and outcomes. The company’s 15,000 employees blend
global consistency and local market knowledge across 100 countries to
help clients run their operations more efficiently. Customers include
pharmaceutical, consumer health and medical device manufacturers and
distributors, providers, payers, government agencies, policymakers,
researchers and the financial community.

As a global leader in protecting individual patient privacy, IMS Health
uses anonymous healthcare data to deliver critical, real-world disease
and treatment insights. These insights help biotech and pharmaceutical
companies, medical researchers, government agencies, payers and other
healthcare stakeholders to identify unmet treatment needs and understand
the effectiveness and value of pharmaceutical products in improving
overall health outcomes.


IMS Health
Tor Constantino, +1-484-567-6732