More and more consumers are using mobile health apps and wearable sensors, and the impact of digital health on patient care is accelerating.
That’s according to a new report from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, which found that around 200 new health-related mobile apps are introduced every day. Users can currently choose from more than 318,500 — nearly double the number available just two years ago.
And while general wellness apps are still in the majority, the number of apps focused on health condition management — those often associated with patient care — are increasing at a faster rate and now represent 40% of all health-related apps.
The “sheer volume” of available apps means that 85% of all health apps have fewer than 5,000 downloads. However, IQVIA found that there are some clear leaders as 41 apps have registered at least 10 million downloads, together representing nearly half of all app download activity.
Many of the most popular apps connect to wearable sensors that detect patient vital signs and activity, no longer relying only on manual patient inputs.
The potential cost savings from digital health tech could be significant in the future, according to the report. In the United States, the use of digital health apps and wearables across five patient populations where they have been shown to reduce acute care utilisation (diabetes prevention, diabetes care, asthma, cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation) could save the US healthcare system an estimated $7bn (£5.3bn) per year. This represents about 1.4% of total costs in these patient populations.
If the same level of savings could be achieved across all disease areas, the annual cost savings could reach $46bn (£35bn).
But it’s not just about saving money. Studies have shown compelling findings for the use of apps in managing diabetes, depression and anxiety, making these categories strong candidates for inclusion in standard of care recommendations. Another 24 categories have one or more trials with positive results.
And apps appear to be improving based on user experience, as 55% of those in the AppScript App Database that launched within the past two years have ratings higher than four stars, compared to 31% of those launched before 2015.
Within 10 years, IQVIA expects the use of digital health to be mainstream for most healthcare organisations.