Providers, insurers and consumers trying to better understand the mobile health app market have a daunting task: There are more than 165,000 mhealth apps. Apple alone has about 91,000, which is more than double what it offered two years ago.

A 63-page report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics walks industry stakeholders through the availability and use of mHealth apps from the Apple and Google stores. Almost 25 percent of the apps target chronic care management, but in totality half of apps have limited functionality, primarily providing information, according to the report. And, only 2 percent of apps can communicate with a provider information system.

“One in 10 mHealth apps have the capability to connect to a device or sensor, which greatly improves the accuracy and convenience of data collection for mHealth apps,” report authors note. “Of the top mHealth apps, 65 percent connect to social media, underscoring the importance of this feature for consumer engagement.”

The largest category of mhealth apps is fitness, followed by lifestyle and stress, diet and nutrition, disease-specific, women’s health, medication reminders/information, and providers and insurers.

Also See: Fitbit Wellness Platform Now HIPAA Compliant

An IMS Institute analysis of 113 studies found apps have been most positively used to manage diabetes, cardiovascular health, obesity, multiple sclerosis and mental health. About 300 clinical trials now use mHealth apps with more than half of the trials focused on the senior population.

Yet, barriers remain to more meaningful app adoption. Despite the enormous availability of mHealth apps, only 36 of them account for half of all downloads and 40 percent have less than 5,000 downloads, according to the report. Another finding: consumers tend to use for longer periods mHealth apps that have been prescribed by providers, and even longer if fitness apps are prescribed.

However, “multi-stakeholder effort is required to reach a maturity level where mHealth apps are integrated and systematically prescribed by providers, as opposed to self-determined by consumers or informally recommended by providers,” report authors say.

The full report, “Patient Adoption of mHealth: Use, Evidence and Remaining Barriers to Mainstream Acceptance,” is available here. Brief registration is required.

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