Mobile health and
;tness apps burst onto
the health scene
By Andrea Downing Peck
“THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT”TM quickly is
becoming the mantra of smartphone users
looking to do everything from locating an
urgent-care clinic with the shortest waiting
time to devising personalized fitness programs to monitoring their blood pressure.
Mobile health and fitness applications are
poised to explode onto the healthcare scene.
An estimated 500 million smartphone owners
worldwide will be using mHealth (mobile
health) apps within the next five years,
according to a 2010 report by research2guid-
ance, a mobile research consulting firm.
“Our findings indicate the long-expected
mobile revolution in healthcare is set to happen,” says Ralf-Gordon Jahns, head researcher
at research2guidance. “Both healthcare providers and consumers are embracing smartphones as a means to improving healthcare.”
In broad terms, mHealth means using
mobile devices to collect, share and deliver
health data. In practical terms, smartphone
applications (downloaded from the Internet)
give consumers the ability to provide real-time health data to their physicians, research
symptoms and diseases, or revamp their fitness routine.
Smartphone users have more than 17,000
health- and fitness-related apps at their fingertips. While the iPhone attracts the lion’s share,
BlackBerry, Android and other smartphones
have downloads at their disposal, too.
Health and fitness
Nike+ GPS, RunKeeper and Lose It! are
among the health and fitness apps that have
each attracted more than 2 million downloads,
the gold standard for success in the app world.
“What a lot of these apps have in common—Nike being a good example—is they
are very easy to use,” says Brian Dolan, edi-
While diet and fitness apps are making
inroads with the health conscious, the future
of mHealth is in devices that turn phones into
a lifeline to medical care and information.
Downloaded nearly 1. 6 million times,
i Triage enables users to find a local pharmacy
or emergency facility with the shortest waiting time, diagnose symptoms, locate a specialist and create a personal health record
using Google Health.
“You come in with a symptom and we’re
going to help you find the appropriate treatment,” says Dr. Wayne Guerra, iTriage co-founder and a Costco member.
MHealth is expected to improve the lives
of millions of people with chronic conditions
such as high blood pressure, diabetes and
asthma by enabling them to monitor, maintain and better control their disorders.
Research analyst Denise Culver believes
mHealth will reduce the amount of time
many patients spend in doctor’s offices and
hospitals, and will “significantly lower the
cost of healthcare.”
Creating buzz are products such as Sanofi-
aventis’ blood glucose meter that connects to
the iPhone and allows diabetics to “manage
diabetes whenever, wherever” and AliveCor’s
iPhone case and app that turn a phone into a
portable electrocardiogram. While neither
product is yet available in the U.S., the devices
provide a glimpse into the future.
A Nielsen study projects that smartphones
will overtake sales of less expensive feature
phones by the end of 2011, adding weight to
Dolan’s belief that consumers are experiencing
the early ripples of an mHealth tidal wave.
“People will only go back for three
things if they forget them at home: their
wallet, keys and phone,” he says. “It’s a
device that never leaves your side. Health
and fitness companies and application
developers will take advantage of that and
go beyond a dormant app and create ones
that are truly interactive.” C
lower the cost
tor of MobiHealthNews. “You can spend a
lot of time analyzing [your data] afterward
by going online, but for the most part it is
plug and play.”
Weight-loss app Lose It! allows users to
establish a daily calorie budget and record
their food and exercise. The app’s developer,
Fit Now Inc., boasts more than 85 percent of
Lose It!’s active users have lost weight. Nike+
GPS and RunKeeper use a phone’s GPS to
track routes and keep jogging statistics.
“Applications that aren’t successful
require too much manual entry,” Dolan says.
“No one wants to sit after a meal and type in
everything they ate and how many calories it
was.” (Apps such as Lose It! have a compre-
hensive, searchable database of foods and
meals and enable you to quickly reenter foods
you have eaten in the past.)
Andrea Downing Peck is a freelance writer
from Bainbridge Island, Washington.