Anyone following the healthcare IT market has a clear understanding (or at least should) that a key market driver for consumer-facing healthcare IT solutions is that ever aging baby boomer generation. This generation is relatively wealthy, compromised of over 77 million adults (if you include adults not born in the US it’s about 83M), often seen as narcissistic, has some degree of computer skills (although this can vary widely) and a significant portion is health conscious. As Boomers age, they will seek any number of tools and services that will help them maintain their health creating a very lucrative market.
PHRs are one such solution that may benefit as boomers take on more responsibility for managing their health (provided we address the numerous PHR adoption challenges, e.g., getting data clinical feeds securely into a PHR). Another area that is already seeing strong growth is the market for software that promotes “brain fitness.” By now you have probably seen one of the ads promoting a “brain game” that one would use on a hand held game console. Doing a search on Google for “brain fitness” will serve up nearly 1 million hits. Clearly, baby boomers want to keep those minds sharp.
Taking a deeper look at this market, the analyst firm, Sharp Brains, released a report in March 2008 on the brain fitness market. Sharp Brains’ leader, Alvaro Fernandez was kind enough to provide me a copy of the report and following are some of the highlights:
- Market more than doubled from 2005 to 2007 growing from ~$100M to $225M.
- Of the four sub-sectors studied (consumer, healthcare, education (K-12) and employer), the direct to the consumer market is experiencing the greatest growth, blossoming from just a few million dollars in 2005 to over $80M today. The authors refer to this as the “Nintendo Brain Age effect.”
- Consumer market is dominated by those over the age of 50 (back to those baby boomers!).
- Much like the PHR market, it appears that the brain fitness software market is equally elusive to accurately define and categorize leading to some confusion in the market as to what exactly is a brain fitness solution. (Not uncommon in any new, rapidly developing market where definitions and requirements are in a state of constant flux.)
- Twenty-one vendors are covered, most you’ve never heard of and the authors provide brief profiles, that are on the thin side, but still useful.
- Being a young market, solution claims today are often not well-supported by clinical evidence. Those solutions that have the evidence tend to be highly structured, often difficult to use, and better suite for clinical settings.
My Final Take on the Report
For the nominal cost, the report provides the reader a pretty accurate picture of the market today. While I would have liked to have seen more details on the vendors of these solutions, the report does counter-balance this need with a thorough discussion on brain science, how theories have changed in recent years (e.g., neuroplasticity), and impending market demand, ala the boomers. If this is a market you are evenly remotely interested in, this report will serve you well in gaining a deeper understanding of its current state and future direction.