Healthcare App Usage- An Overview

June 25, 2013

It is no question that there are apps for just about everything today.  With the convenience, immediate connection to information, and direct engagement that they offer, it is no wonder that new apps are likely springing up this second.  While some apps are merely for entertainment, many others serve very practical and educational purposes.  Healthcare apps fall into this category and are soaring with popularity for healthcare providers and patients alike. 

There are countless benefits that healthcare apps provide.  Forbes succinctly points out five substantial ways that apps will transform healthcare including, improved access to care, improved patient engagement, new provider business models, reduced medicare fraud, and improved patient safety.  These advantages are what drive the healthcare app industry, which is expected to see revenues of almost $400 million in 2015 (up from $230 million in 2010) according to a 2012 report by Frost & Sullivan.  This same report also notes that there will be 82 million tablet users in 2015, up from 10 million in 2010.  This always-increasing number of people purchasing smartphones or tablets explains why the apps that go along with them are in such high demand and are becoming the norm for how people access health information.

Indus Net Technologies published an infographic about the rising popularity of mobile health apps last year which included some staggering statistics.  In 2011, 17% of cell phone users used their phone to look for health or medical information online.  By 2012, this number was up to 31%.  In addition, in 2011, 124 million people were mobile health app users.  In 2012, the number reached 247 million.  This information is geared towards patients, but when looking to physicians, the widespread usage does not dwindle.

Research firm Black Book Rankings conducted a survey that found that 83 percent of office-based physicians would use mobile EHR functionalities to update patient charts, check labs, and order medications immediately if available by their EHR.  In addition, the same report (cited in Healthcare IT News) found that the mobile application market is expected to grow 500 percent by the end of 2014 mostly due to meaningful use incentives.  AmericanEHR Partners published a study, “Tablet Usage by Physicians 2013” that found that 33 percent of EHR users and 25% of non-EHR users use a tablet device in their medical practice.

What are physicians doing with their mobile usage?  The most frequent activity performed on a tablet is sending and receiving emails (73 percent).  Moving down the line, 70 percent use tablets to access EHRs and 68 percent research information about medications.  Accordingly, it may come as no surprise that among the most popular physician apps are:

  • Epocrates– lets physicians review drug and safety information, check insurance coverage for drugs, and access medical news and research
  • Medscape– drug prescribing and safety information, medical calculations, and procedure videos
  • Doximity– professional network for physicians with emailing, faxing, and text messaging capabilities.

There are countless other apps that are frequently used by physicians that concentrate on topics ranging from anatomy to continuing education to BMI.  Thomas Stringham, co-founder of American EHR Partners summarized that, “As the adoption of mobile devices increases, so do the expectations of clinical users.”  He continued, “The health IT sector and app developers have an opportunity to improve the quality and usefulness of clinical mobile apps.”

With the demand for healthcare apps high, entrepreneurs are capitalizing and contributing to the thousands of programs available through Apple iTunes.  However, in the future, it will become clearer that not all apps are created equal, as the FDA is striving to actively monitor apps that present any risks to patients.  The apps that continue to be the most popular are those that stay true to the goals of healthcare including reducing patient costs, improving well-being, and connecting physicians to the right information at the right time.

Excite Health Partners
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