The Challenges of Mobile Health Apps

Photo via Flickr / Jason A. Howie
Photo via Flickr / Jason A. Howie
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Mobile health and healthcare IT applications face unique challenges as they enter the app stores. Whereas mobile game developers may focus on creating realistic graphics or social messaging apps struggle with developing simple interfaces that scale across platforms, health apps need to deal with the large amounts of data they process while still maintaining HIPAA requirements. A strong analytics component that makes health data accessible and easier to understand, therefore, may determine whether a mobile health app succeeds or fails.

According to FierceHeathIT, Harry Greenspun, senior advisor for health care transformation & technology at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, challenged the crowd to think about such questions at the Government Health IT conference this week in Washington, D.C.

Though creating health apps is not easy by any means, there is a huge untapped market since the relative number of health apps pales in comparison to the collection of mobile games, messaging service or productivity applications.

Greenspun acknowledged the complexity of creating health apps, including how they will be priced in the app stores, and what incentives are needed to maintain user compliance.

Regarding pricing, there is an increasingly strong precedence that consumers will pay more than $0.99 for apps that ease the burdens within their lives or are simply fun to use. Things, for example, a cross-platform to-do app sells for $9.99 and is currently the #34 top grossing application in the productivity genre on iOS, while Minecraft, the extremely popular building block game for kids and adults sells for $6.99 and is the #6 top grossing app for the year to date in the iTunes store.

In some ways, a health app is a specialized productivity program. But rather than organizing workflow, a health application might log a user’s blood work or exercise habits, maximizing the limited amount of time physicians spend with patients in the clinic.

According to Greenspun, mobile health apps should allow patients to rate doctors based on results or give them some sort of incentive, be it corporate or social, to keep them engaged.

Health and healthcare IT apps clearly need more attention. The question remains: Which develops will step up to the challenge.