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Monthly Visit to the AppStore

by John Moore | October 06, 2008

Dropped by the Apple iPhone AppStore (it’s inside iTunes) to see how the health & wellness section was doing. As we reported previously, the AppStore has seen tremendous growth in the number of applications available to the consumer or physician. That growth has not abated. As of this afternoon, one will find 189 health & wellness apps for their iPhone and most of these will also work on the iTouch.

Following are quick snippets/notes on what we found today:

  • Of the top ten most popular apps, 4 are targeting physicians: EyePhone, Epocrates, Medical Calculator and a student edition of Eponyms. The number one app is a pedometer, for free, which also happens to be in the top 30 of all free apps (and there are hundreds) in the AppStore.
  • Though there may be 189 separate health & wellness apps, many of them are very similar to one another including several menstrual cycle trackers, pregnancy trackers, BMI calculators and diet/weight tracking apps.
  • Most of the consumer apps are free and simplistic – but what do you expect for free? Several do offer an upgrade for a fee, thus these free apps are more of a teaser.
  • With but a couple of exceptions, most apps lack any semblance of originality and come across more as knock-offs of one another than something truly new and different.

This last point is actually quite important as this is a huge, missed marketing opportunity. Why companies are not building innovative apps for the iPhone is beyond me as from this vantage point it appears to be an ideal platform to market to a large audience that represents a unique and potentially lucrative demographic.

For example, the car company Audi made a little iPhone game for racing their A4 through a race track. Though the reviews were not spectacular for this app, it is rated as one of the most popular free apps in the AppStore. Surely Audi is getting some good marketing mileage out of this.

So why not have a medical institution, or a pharmaceutical company, or pharmacy chain or even a health plan start putting out some free iPhone apps and leverage the platform for Branding/Visibility. Heck, maybe even the feds could do something here that a consumer can get some real value from, rather than some pipe dream like the NHIN or a Second Life experience ala CDC.

A couple of ideas come readily to mind:

  • A health thesaurus and dictionary for the consumer with content provided by a major provider (they are already doing such elsewhere so this should be a snap to do for the iPhone.
  • An medication compliance app to easily load one’s medication into that also integrates with iCal to alert someone when to take their meds. This app can also contain a medication checker to alert the consumer if there is any potential for adverse reactions. For someone like CVS or Walgreens, this is a great app to extend their brand – jeez that would be brilliant, wouldn’t it! Of course, such an app would probably kill the start-up, ZumeLife, but they didn’t look long for this world anyway as smartphones will quickly displace such simple devices.

What ideas do you think would fit the smartphone/iPhone modality? How might healthcare stakeholders leverage such platforms in the future to drive consumer awareness? Feel free to chime in with your comments?

3 responses to “Monthly Visit to the AppStore”

  1. Rajiv Mehta says:

    We at Zume Life are in fact developing an iPhone application. As you say, it does provide a rich platform for such applications. We developed our own device as it allowed us to test a solution in the hands of a very wide variety of individuals without dealing with gatekeepers (whether Apple or the carriers). As for the future, some people will prefer powerful, multi-function devices (smartphones), while others will prefer simpler, focused devices. Over time, we will develop equivalent applications for other smartphones as well.

    Designing a system that truly addresses the day-to-day, hour-to-hour needs of those dealing with chronic illness is a far more difficult challenge than it appears at first glance. While each individual task (taking a pill, for example) is simple, the sheer number and variety of tasks and the fact that they may be spread out throughout the day is what makes self-care so difficult. A medication reminder system that simply puts the reminders into iCal is just not adequate. See the white paper “Requirements and Design Implications for Mobile Self-Care Systems” at http://www.zumelife.com/white-papers.php.

    I’ll be speaking at the upcoming Health2.0 Conference if you’d like to discuss this further.

  2. John says:

    Thank you Rajiv for providing an insightful comment. I did read the WP and agree with the majority of what is conveyed.

    While I do understand why you took the path of creating a separate hardware platform, Zuri, I find it hard to see a consumer carrying yet another handheld device. Yes, there will be a sector of the market that may prefer a simple, singular purpose device such as the Zuri, but beleive the majority of the market will seek a solution that can be incorporated within an existing device (smartphone), thus my previous comment. It appears that your team understands this as well and is in positioning to capitalize upon this trend.

    Now, what I would really like to know is how might Zuri be a part of a broader platform such as Google Health, via Android, or HealthVault? Maybe that is something we can discuss further at Health 2.0. Sound good?

  3. Rajiv Mehta says:

    Glad you liked the WP.

    Think of the Zuri, in whatever form (unique device, smartphone application, desktop widget …), as that portion of your larger personal health management system that you need readily accessible anytime/anyplace — for reminders, for instant journaling, and for in-the-moment decision making. The data collected by Zuri (your interactions & your journaling) — your personal, very granular health history — is complementary to the institutional information (from doctors, clinics, pharmacies, etc.) being collected in PHR platforms like Google Health and HealthVault. Without the inclusion of Zuri-type information, your PHR will only have a myopic view of your health, just a few snapshots of your life.

    See you at Health2.0.

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