According to a new report, there are now more than 165,000 mobile health apps on the market, more than doubling over the past two years. Whether that quantity has translated into quality is a different story.

The report is from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. IMS Health is a provider of all kinds of healthcare industry data for health systems and pharmaceutical companies. Here, they’ve turned their considerable data gathering and analysis capabilities toward health & medical apps, providing many really interesting insights in their 63-page report.

Among the 165,000 health & medical apps now on the market, nearly two thirds are focused on general wellness issues like fitness, lifestyle & stress, and diet. The remainder is made up by apps focused on specific health conditions (9%), medication info & reminders (6%), and women’s health & pregnancy (7%). Mental health apps led among disease specific apps, followed by diabetes.

IMS Graph

Credit: IMS Institute

Use of these apps by consumers is extraordinarily concentrated. They estimated that 12% of apps accounted for 90% of all downloads; the majority being diet and fitness apps. And what’s happening with all of this data that patients are capturing? Surprisingly, the percentage of apps that allow patients to share data and to do it securely has remained flat despite the growing emphasis on the ability to share data between IT systems.

When they looked at physician practices when it comes to app prescribing using their AppScripts platform, they found the majority of prescribed apps focused on diet, fitness, smoking, and mental health. And when physicians prescribed an app, they found that “fill rates” ranged from 28% (respiratory apps) to 72% (mental health apps). Continued use of these apps was highest for fitness apps (76%), diabetes apps (67%), and smoking apps (63%).

Overall, the report offers an interesting snapshot of the health & medical app landscape. As the folks at IMS point out, with the sheer number of apps it is overwhelming for both patients and clinicians. With only a small fraction of apps subject to regulatory oversight and even fewer tested for efficacy in any meaningful way, finding the right app for your patient and their specific needs is tough.

As the mobile health industry grows, we’re also seeing growth of platforms to help guide clinicians and patients as they try to find the apps & devices that fit their unique needs. There are certainly challenges here, as Happtique discovered a few years ago when they attempted to launch a fee-based app certification program. Since then, IMS Health as launched their AppScripts app prescribing platform for healthcare institutions and systems. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) launched an Apps Library of vetted health apps, though that effort seems to have stalled with the NHS currently undertaking a major revision of their mobile health strategy. And some healthcare organizations are developing resources for their clinicians to support appropriate use of mobile health technology.

And of course, that’s why we do what we do here at iMedicalApps. We’ve reviewed thousands of apps over the years to help our peers & colleagues discover apps that can help them in their day-to-day clinical practice by suggesting useful health management tools they can recommend to their patients, resources to aid clinical decision making at the bedside, tools to learn & stay up to date, and more. We’re building on that experience with iPrescribeApps to provide clinicians with the ability to easily and quickly prescribe evidence-based apps to their patients.

Full report available at the IMS Institute