The iPhone Is The New Doctor’s Housecall

The iPhone Is The New Doctor’s Housecall

New trends show health-related apps are changing how patients experience healthcare.

Health related iOS apps are proliferating quickly in the App Store. While the most popular health related apps tend to be focused on diet, exercise, and stress relief, there are some other fast growing trends that show how the iPhone and iPad transforming the healthcare experience for consumers.

According to MobiHealthNews, which provides an annual assessment of the market for mobile apps related to medicine, health, and fitness, three new trends are emerging that could significantly reshape our experience of healthcare.

In its annual study, MobiHealthNews notes that most apps fall into one of 12 general categories (as noted in the chart above) with apps that support cardio-related fitness, diet and meal planning, stress reduction, strength and weight training, and women’s health being the five most common categories.

This year, however, the health news service notes that there is significant growth in areas that it hadn’t identified as distinct categories until now. Its current category chart will likely have to be redesigned to include three new and growing types of consumer health apps: allergy information and management apps, interactive apps for specific doctor’s offices or healthcare groups, and physical therapy apps.

Allergy management is considered a new app category because the majority of apps related to allergies have been launched in the past ten months. The emerging category is largely dedicated to seasonal allergies rather than to most serious types of allergies like those to shell-fish, various types of nuts, and bees – all of which can be fatal. MobiHealthNews notes that some of these apps have become highly ranked in the App Store. The interesting trend here is that there are multiple allergy management apps produced by pharmaceutical companies, which while providing useful information, can also serve as marketing vehicles for specific drugs. Given that iOS devices in general, and the iPad in particular, deliver a better marketing punch than other types of ads, that could impact how allergy sufferers evaluate treatment options.

The second trend is apps by established health care providers like individual doctor or provider practices, medical groups, hospitals, and insurance carriers. Many healthcare professionals and facilities are embracing consumer-oriented apps as ways to distribute provider information and general health references. Some are also offering direct interaction for things like scheduling appointments and paying bills. A handful even offer the ability to interact with doctors, nurses, or other providers directly through the app. It’s not really surprising to see such a contingent of apps proliferate as many businesses in healthcare and other industries are developing consumer-facing apps. Most major pharmacies already have iOS apps, for example.

The third trend is physical therapy apps. Most of these apps are focused on specific injuries, conditions, and areas of the body. Many provide reference guides to help patients with at home exercises and MobiHealthNews expects to see doctors and physical therapists “prescribe” these apps.

Ultimately, the message for consumers and healthcare professionals alike is these new growth areas all focus on educating and empowering patients to take more control of their health and healthcare needs. That’s a positive impact for individuals so long as they turn to reputable apps. It is worth noting that accuracy and potentially biased information are big concerns cited by physicians about medical and health apps in general.

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About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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