According a new study just released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, the number of mobile health applications (mHealth apps) available to consumers now surpasses 165,000. The study, Patient Adoption of mHealth: Use, Evidence and Remaining Barriers to Mainstream Acceptance, analyzed 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.

The problem is this: too many apps, too little efficacy in terms of health outcomes.

“The fast-paced growth of the healthcare app market has outpaced the ability to develop oversight and
guidance for accuracy of clinical content contained in mHealth apps,” concludes the report. “The sheer volume of choices in
the consumer mHealth apps available in the absence of a mechanism for certifying or ranking apps
leaves providers and consumers on their own to navigate app selection. This environment leads to
provider reluctance in prescribing mHealth apps given the unknowns about accuracy, efficacy as well
as security.”

What’s the solution?

The report cites a growing movement 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,” say the authors of the report. Lack of evidence is just one of the hurdles to widespread provider prescribing of mHealth apps. Other hurdles include reimbursement challenges, limited integration with physician office systems, gaps in patient access, and, last but not least, data security and privacy issues.

Data and security issues will become even more important as the number of mHealth apps that connect to social media and devices such as wearables increases. Currently, about 34% of of all mobile health apps connect with social media (65% of the top apps can do so). And 10% of mHealth apps are capable of connecting to a device or sensor, including wearables such as the Apple Watch.

Managing the Security of Wearable Apps
Jeff Greene
In this 2.5-minute audio snippet, Jeff Greene, digital strategy lead at New Solutions Factory, talks about why the pharmaceutical industry should be concerned about the security issues of apps it develops for wearable devices. He also gives some pointers for managing the threat and avoiding becoming the next Ashley Madison.

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This snippet was extracted from a 30-minute Pharma Marketing Talk conversation with Greene that aired LIVE on Wednesday, 9 September 2015:

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The full IMS report, including a detailed description of the methodology, is available at The study was produced independently as a public service, without industry or government funding.