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Will Mobile Wellness Apps Improve Health?

October 17, 2013

No one really knows if mobile wellness apps will improve health, at least not yet. The market stats certainly indicate the fascination with mobile health apps:

  • Juniper Research says that by 2016, 3M patients worldwide will be using remote monitoring devices that use a smart phone as a hub to transmit information.
  • Pew Internet & American Life Project estimates that about 19% of U.S. adult smartphone users currently have applications to help them monitor or manage their health; 22% of smartphone users who have faced a medical crisis use health apps; and 21% of smartphone users with chronic conditions use health apps.

mobile-fitness.jpgBut is this interaction resulting in increased engagement and better outcomes? Once we can start capturing and analyzing the data collected from these apps and apply some advanced analytics to understand trends, patterns, engagement cycles and health status we will certainly get a glimpse into whether technology can impact behavior toward more healthy choices and lifestyles.

The questions that creep into mind have to do with privacy: who will own the data and for what purpose will the data be used? The benefit we as a consumer and as a society realize must outweigh the fear of sharing too much for this trend to hit critical mass to make a difference.

I also can’t help but wonder that once we reach critical mass, will we see a backlash to completely ditching the healthy app because it’s become too much like a mother telling us to eat our broccoli? (I like broccoli by the way.) Will we reach a point where we’re maniacally measuring our steps, caloric intake, level of activity, etc., to a place where we simply ditch the healthy app and go get that double mocha latte?

Mobile health apps are very cool. When I think about what we can measure through devices and sensors, I am optimistic that we will begin to understand the patient in the context of their day to day lives and in turn, be able to provide more prescriptive, personalized care to keep them healthy.

Have you tried a mobile wellness app yet? How do you think this trend will impact healthcare? Join @IBMbigdata as we host the #CXO Twitter chat with Jesse Givens, Head of Product, CarePass at Aetna on this very subject. I encourage you to join Monday October 21, at 12:00p.m. ET on Twitter with the #CXO hashtag and give us your opinions and outlooks.