Annual Check-up: mHealth Apps are Still in Critical Condition – Part I: Healthcare App Development Market is Not Meeting Patient Needs

Despite a booming healthcare app development industry, the apps being released are still sub-par.

Person holds mHealth on Smartphone in their hand

As early as 2014, industry research leaders like Deloitte, Frost & Sullivan and Accenture were heralding the benefits and high growth rate of the nascent mobile healthcare app development market. The growing global access to data networks and low-cost smart devices provided a unique opportunity to capitalize on more direct access to patients and further enable providers at the point-of-care.
The onset of the consumerization of healthcare, combined with a transition in the US market towards a fee-for-value reimbursement model, set the stage for new dynamics within the provider ecosystem.

Health systems began competing for market share as they embarked on both vertical and horizontal integration. News of mergers and acquisitions began to become commonplace. And with that, the need to consolidate branding across Integrated Delivery Networks (IDN), as well as the imperative to avoid bleeding revenues due to patients seeking care out-of-network, created favorable conditions for the adoption of branded, patient-facing healthcare mobile applications.   

Large health systems began publishing their own apps, and in 2015, both Accenture and IMS released reports on the state of digital health, and of mHealth in particular. The results of those studies highlighted the following weaknesses found in healthcare and hospital app development:

    1. Lack of relevant features for patients
    1. Obstacles to integration across disparate health IT systems
  1. Cost of development

Little has been done since these reports were issued to examine what, if any, progress health systems and healthcare app developers have made.

Medical Web Experts decided to take an up-to-date look at the state of today’s mHealth market as it compares to the findings of these 2015 reports. To do this, we identified 22 of the top US healthcare systems according to two separate Becker’s Hospital Review rankings, 50 Great Health Systems to Know | 2015 and 15 Largest Health Systems in the U.S., that had an mHealth app on at least one mobile platform (iOS or Android).

The healthcare organizations included in our analysis, along with the healthcare or hospital apps they offer, are listed in the table below. Notably, all 22 mHealth applications were available on iOS, while only 17 were available on Android.

Healthcare System
App Name
Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland ClinicToday
CarolinasCarolinas HealthCare System
Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic
Baptist Health South Florida
St. Vincents
St. John
Tenet Health
Delray Medical Center
Tenet Health
Houston Northwest Medical Center
Trinity Health
Trinity Health
Kaiser Permanente Health Foundation
Kaiser Permanente
Dignity Health
My Care Dignity Health
NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System
Adventist Health System
Adventist Midwest Health Connect
Spectrum Health
My Health
Sutter Health
Sutter Health San Carlos
Sutter Health
My Health
Covenant Health
Virtual Care
Intermountain Healthcare
Health Hub
CHI Franciscan
CHI Franciscan
Legacy Health
Legacy Health
Novant Health
Novant Health

We then proceeded to rate the apps based on the features offered, functionality, user experience, downloads and user ratings. The information gleaned shows that significant shortcomings still exist in the healthcare app development market, including:

    • Limited functionality for mHealth app features
    • Misleading functionality descriptions in app stores
    • Misalignment of core features with those most requested by patients
    • Lack of focus on a single app
  • Limited app downloads and/or poor ratings

From our analysis, it is clear that while mHealth adoption has slowly grown over the last few years, healthcare app developers, which in many cases is the healthcare provider organization themselves, have not kept up with the user experience of the most popular consumer apps in other industries. Patients have become accustomed to the user experiences and advanced functionality found in the apps they use everyday. Healthcare providers must align their mHealth application development efforts with these patient expectations if they want to get the most value out of their mobile patient engagement efforts.  

You are reading Part I: Healthcare App Development Market is Not Meeting Patient Needs of the series “Annual Check-up: mHealth Apps are Still in Critical Condition.” Read the other parts here:

Part II: Limited Functionality for mHealth App Features

Part III: Misleading Functionality Descriptions in App Stores

Part IV: Core Features Are Still Missing from mHealth Apps for Hospitals and Health Systems

Part V: Summary Report of Health System App Development Progress

As Director of Business Development, Michael is passionate about helping healthcare systems successfully transition to value-based care.

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