IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science has released a new report which has found that the number of mHealth apps available to consumers now surpass 318,500 — nearly double the number available just two years ago — with approximately 200 new apps added to the market each day.
While general wellness apps still account for most mobile health apps available, the number of apps focused on health condition management are increasing at a faster rate, representing 40 percent of all health-related apps.
However, 85 percent of all health apps have fewer than 5,000 downloads, while 41 apps have registered at least 10 million downloads together representing nearly half of all app download activity. Separately, there is also now at least one high-quality app for each step of the patient journey.
The study, The Growing Value of Digital Health: Evidence and Impact on Human Health and the Healthcare System, is said to be the most comprehensive of its kind conducted to date and extends the Institute's examination of consumer-focused mobile apps in the health system conducted in 2015.
For the report, researchers drew on IQVIA's proprietary AppScript data and analytics platform, including the AppScript App Database, the AppScript Clinical Evidence Database, the AppScript Score app quality rating system, and the AppScript Essentials Value Model to provide the first exhaustive global assessment of overall app quality, clinical evidence, and implications for health outcomes and care costs. This includes an analysis of 22,357 unique healthcare apps available in the U.S. Apple iTunes and Android app stores — a representative sample of the most widely used Digital Health apps by consumers. Also, the Institute conducted additional primary research using the AppScript Device Database, ClinicalTrials.gov Database, as well as structured interviews with health- and technology-focused thought leaders and executives on the role of Digital Health in regards to patient care.
"The research suggests an inflection point is occurring within Digital Health trends regarding innovation, evidence and adoption," said Murray Aitken, executive director of the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. "The convergence of those three digital drivers combined with other macro factors, aligns with the development of the newly defined, and emerging discipline of human data science that combines advances in information, transformative technology and analytics with human data beyond the patient journey to measure and improve health decisions and outcomes. Within that context, we believe the growing innovation, evidence and adoption of Digital Health tools can have an increasingly positive impact on human health outcomes overall."
Five takeaways from the report:
First, the report has found that the use of Digital Health apps and wearables across five patient populations where they have proven reductions in acute care utilization (diabetes prevention, diabetes care, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation) could save the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $7 billion per year. The figure represents about 1.4 percent of total costs in these patient populations, and if this level of savings could be achieved across all disease areas — annual cost savings of $46 billion could be achieved.
Second, clinical evidence regarding Digital Health efficacy has grown substantially. There are 571 published studies, including randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and meta-analysis studies, enabling the identification of a list of apps with increasingly robust clinical evidence. Particularly compelling findings now exist for use in diabetes, depression and anxiety, making these categories strong candidates for inclusion in standard of care recommendations by clinical guideline writers. An additional 24 categories have one or more RCTs with positive results making associated apps strong candidates for adoption across provider organizations and payer networks. Additional evidence-building efforts continue with 860 clinical trials worldwide now incorporating Digital Health tools, including 540 in the U.S., with two thirds of these focused on apps and text message interventions to smartphones.
Third, apps appear to be improving based on user experience. Fifty-five percent of apps in the AppScript App Database that launched within the past two years have ratings higher than four stars, compared to 31 percent of those launched before 2015. App stores have also begun removing low quality apps, including those that are outdated, abandoned, no longer meet current guidelines or don't function as intended. Additionally, while 73 percent of apps are available in English, mobile health apps are increasingly supporting a global audience.
Fourth, digital sensors linked to apps are bringing innovation and adding value in three key areas: the creation of smart devices, digital diagnostics and new human-centered clinical trial designs. By tracking parameters beyond sleep and steps that correlate to disease severity, these digital tools will contribute to precision medicine, enabling stratification of patients by symptoms identified by sensors as well as traditional biomarkers. Digital-enabled "smart" devices such as asthma smart inhalers, connected pens for diabetes and smart blister packs are also being developed to track medicine usage remotely and encourage patient adherence. These have shown improved therapeutic outcomes and broad investment in smart inhalers indicates these may become the new standard of care in asthma.
And fifth, barriers still exist to widespread adoption of Digital Health, but initiatives have emerged to accelerate the ongoing adoption of Digital Health tools by care provider organizations. Notably, curation platforms are facilitating the creation of Digital Therapeutics Formularies; privacy and security guidelines are being published; providers are now incentivized to use Digital Health through value-based payments; and data integration vendors are facilitating more integrated use of Digital Health data with existing electronic medical record systems. Additionally, investments by healthcare and provider organizations in Digital Health continue to grow, with an estimated 20 percent of large health networks shifting from pilot programs to more full-scale rollouts. Within 10 years, the use of Digital Health is likely to be mainstream for most organizations delivering human health.
The full version of the report, including a detailed description of the methodology, is available at IQVIAInstitute.org.