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IMS Health Identifies Opportunities for Mobile Healthcare Apps to Drive Patient Engagement, Enhance Delivery of Care

30 Oct 2013




Tor Constantino                                                             
IMS Health                                                                                 


Report Assesses 43,000+ Apps, Finds Limited Use and Functionality; 
Evidence of Clinical Benefits Essential to Move Apps from 
Novelty to Mainstream

PARSIPPANY, NJ, October 30, 2013 – Despite growing interest in the use of mobile applications by patients and healthcare professionals as part of wellness, prevention and treatment regimens, the vast majority of available apps has limited functionality or evidence of value in advancing healthcare provision and outcomes, according to a new report released today by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Most efforts in app development have been focused on overall wellness, especially diet and exercise apps, and do not address the greatest areas of need in healthcare—patients who are facing multiple chronic diseases and are typically over the age of 65. The study, Patient Apps for Improved Healthcare: From Novelty to Mainstream, is the first of its kind to examine the current state of consumer-focused mobile apps in the health system. 

More than 43,000 health-related apps are currently available for download from the Apple iTunes app store. Of those, the IMS Institute found that only 16,275 apps are directly related to patient health and treatment. Researchers conducted a full analysis on each of these apps, assessing the functionality provided across the patient journey and identifying areas where unmet needs exist. As part of the study, the Institute held discussions on the role and status of healthcare apps with key opinion leaders, physicians and provider executives.

“The movement toward digital therapeutics is clear. Mobile health apps have the potential to drive a disruptive shift in patient engagement and healthcare delivery,” said Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. “Harnessing the power of apps has become a focal point of innovation, yet barriers remain to their broad and systematic use by providers and patients. Development of clear evidence on the benefits of driving positive behavioral changes and improving health outcomes will be key to breaking through the barriers.

The report’s key findings include the following:

  • Despite the large number of healthcare apps developed, most have only limited functionality. More than 90 percent of healthcare apps reviewed by the IMS Institute scored less than 40 out of a possible 100 for functionality, based on 25 screening factors. While 10,840 of the apps reviewed can provide and display information, less than half of those can also provide instructions and approximately 20 percent can also capture user-entered data.
  • The downloading and use of healthcare apps is limited. More than 50 percent of available healthcare apps have been downloaded fewer than 500 times. Conversely, five apps account for 15 percent of all downloads in the healthcare category. With no objective assessment of the utility and value of apps available, patients and physicians currently must navigate a maze of apps with little guidance.
  • Few apps are designed to address areas of greatest need. Patients over the age of 65 are among the top users of healthcare resources, yet smartphone use and app downloads are the lowest among this group. Only 18 percent of the elderly U.S. population use smartphones, compared with 55 percent of consumers age 45-54. High smartphone penetration among younger generations of caregivers who download apps could impact healthcare efficiency among patients with the highest unmet need.
  • Most physicians remain wary of formally recommending healthcare apps.  Physicians recognize the potential value of apps but typically will not recommend them to patients without evidence of clinical benefits, clear professional guidelines regarding their use, and confidence in the security of personal health information that may be generated or transmitted by the app. Formularies that provide an objective assessment of the functionality and value of healthcare apps could serve as a significant resource for physicians, patients and other stakeholders. Payers and employer wellness programs also want clear evidence of the benefits before considering reimbursement or promoting the use of apps.
  • In order for apps to move from novelty to mainstream, four areas need to be addressed. There must be recognition of the role apps can play in healthcare by payers and providers, as well as regulators and policymakers; security and privacy guidelines and assurances established among providers, patients and app developers; a systematic evaluation of apps to  inform their appropriate use; and the effective integration of apps with other aspects of patient care.

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 IMS Health 
IMS Health is a leading worldwide provider of information, technology and services dedicated to making healthcare perform better. With a global technology infrastructure and unique combination of real-world evidence, advanced analytics and proprietary software platforms, IMS Health connects knowledge across all aspects of healthcare to help clients improve patient outcomes and operate more efficiently. The company’s expert resources draw on data from nearly 100,000 suppliers, and on insights from more than 40 billion healthcare transactions processed annually, to serve more than 5,000 healthcare clients globally. Customers include pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer health manufacturers and distributors, providers, payers, government agencies, policymakers, researchers and the financial community. Additional information is available at