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Supply Of mHealth Apps Far Exceeds Demand

Posted on October 19, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

With demand relatively high and barriers to entry low, the supply of mHealth apps available on the two main marketplaces has exploded in recent years. And according to a new report from analyst firm Research 2 Guidance, the number of apps continues to mushroom despite lagging demand.

The report notes that nearly 100,000 mHealth apps have been added to the Google and Apple app marketplaces since the beginning of last year, bringing the total apps available to about 259,000. Also, 13,000 mHealth publishers entered the market since the start of 2015, bringing the total to 58,000, according to the study, which looked at global health app development.

To get a sense of trends, the group’s mHealth App Developer Economics 2016 report compared the number of available apps and publishers with the number of mHealth downloads.

During the past year, researchers found, the total number of mHealth apps climbed a whopping 57%, boosted by the expanding number of health app publishers, the increased importance of publishing across both key app marketplaces in the increase in app portfolios by publishers, R2G found.

Multi-platform publishing seems to be particularly important. Currently, 75% of mHealth publishers are developing apps on both iOS and Android platforms. (An even higher percentage of HTML 5 and Windows Phone developers publish across each other’s platforms, but their numbers are small so they don’t contribute much to the overall market stats, the firm found.)

Meanwhile, the number of health app publishers on major app stores climbed 28% since the beginning of 2015, a torrent of entries that doesn’t seem to be slowing down, the analyst firm concluded. This includes not only veteran publishers but also ongoing entrances by new mHealth publishers.

The problem is, demand is nowhere near keeping up with supply, at least when measuring by the number of downloads. Statistics by the research firm indicate that while demand continued to grow by a solid 35% in 2015, health app downloads are estimated to be only 7% in 2016.

Though such downloads are expected to reach a total of 3.2 billion in 2016, further massive growth seems unlikely, as the growth in use of capable devices that can use and download apps has slowed down in most Western countries, R2G notes.

Given the amount of noise in the mHealth app market, few publishers are likely to have the resources to stand out and grab significant download market share. As the analyst firm notes, only 14% of mHealth app publishers generated more than 100,000 downloads across their portfolio in one year, a number which is climbed only 3% since 2014.

iPad Lifecycle Versus Other Tablets

Posted on February 13, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Every once in a while I like to put my old IT hat back on (I am @techguy on Twitter after all) and look at some of the more physical IT aspects of EMR and healthcare IT. I still get really excited about EMR Technology products and the evolution of these products.

I’ve long argued that most IT administrators would much rather have a set of Windows 8 tablets in their environment over a bunch of iPads or Android tablets. The biggest reasons for this was because of the security and management of these devices. Most hospital and healthcare IT administrators are comfortable securing a Windows based device and they aren’t as comfortable with new tablets like the iPad or Android tablets. Plus, the tools for managing and imaging Windows based tablets is so much more developed than those of the iPad or Android (although, I think both of these are catching up pretty quickly).

While I think both of these arguments are reasonable, I heard two new arguments for why an organization might want to stick with Windows 8 tablets instead of moving to iPads and Androids.

The first reason is that the lifecycle of a Windows 8 machine is much longer than an iPad or Android tablet. A Windows 8 tablet that you bought 5 years ago could still easily be supported by an IT shop and will work with your various software systems. A 3 year old iPad could very well not work with your EHR software and Apple has already stopped supporting O/S upgrades on the original iPads which poses similar HIPAA Compliance issues to Windows XP.

The whole release cycle with iPad and Android tablets is intent on replacing the previous versions. They don’t quite make them obsolete, but they’ve been releasing new versions every year with the intent for you to buy a new one every year. This stands in stark contrast to the Windows tablet approach.

Another reason many IT admins will likely lean towards Windows 8 tablets over iPads and Androids is that they’re just generally more rugged. Sure, you can make iPads and Androids more rugged with certain cases, but then you lose the look and feel of having an iPad in your hand and nicely in your pocket.

This point is accentuated even more when you look at devices like the new Toughpad tablets from Panasonic. They’ve finally got the processing power in these machines to match that of a desktop so they can run any software you want. Plus, they are crazy durable. I saw them at CES last month and a journalist from India was slamming it on the ground and stepping on it and the thing kept ticking without a problem. I don’t need to explain to any of you why durability matters in healthcare where you’re always carrying around multiple items and drops are common.

Of course, the reality is that it’s “sexy” to carry around an iPad while you work. Software vendors are going to continue developing for the iPad and doctors are going to want to be carrying an iPad around with them. IT staff are likely going to have to support iPads and other tablets in their environment. However, when it’s left to the IT staff, you can be sure that the majority of them will be pushing for the more rugged, easier to secure, easier to manage, and longer lifecycle Windows 8 tablets. Unless of course, they’re ordering an iPad for their own “test” environment.

Android Security Risks May Outweigh Benefits

Posted on April 26, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Not long ago, my colleague John Lynn made a compelling pitch for the Android platform, arguing that it’s likely to take over healthcare eventually given its flexibility.  That flexibility stands in sharp contrast to Apple phones and tablets, which work quite elegantly but also impose rigid requirements on app developers.

That being said, however, there’s security risks associated with Android that might outweigh its advantages. The major carriers are doing little or nothing to upgrade and patch the Android versions on the phones they sell, leaving them open to security breaches.

The Android security problem is so egregious that the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the  Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to investigate how AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile handle software updates on their phones.

In the complaint, the civil liberties group argues that the carriers have been engaging in “unfair and deceptive business practices” by failing to let customers know about well-known unpatched security flaws in the Android devices that they sell.

What makes things worse, the ACLU suggests, is that the carriers aren’t even offering consumers the option to update their phones.  Though Google has continued to fix flaws in the Android OS, these fixes aren’t being bundled and pushed out to the wireless carriers’ customers.  As the ACLU rightly notes, such behavior is unheard of in the world of desktop operating systems, where consumers regularly get updates from Apple and Microsoft.

In its complaint the ACLU argues that the carriers must either provide security updates to customers or allow them to get refunds on their devices and terminate their contracts without any penalty. It’s asking the FTC to force the carriers’ hand.

In the mean time, with healthcare requiring strict data security under HIPAA, one has to wonder whether hospitals and medical practices should be using Android devices at all (at least for their work).  Of course, clinicians who are accustomed to using their personal Android phones or tablets will be inconvenienced and probably fairly annoyed too.  But as things stand, hospital CIOs better be really careful about how they handle Android phones in the healthcare environment.

Around Healthcare Scene: EMRs and Health Technology Talk

Posted on March 10, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

EMRs are supposed to increase efficiency and patient care. However, because of the amount of data they contain, sometimes the opposite happens. Anne Zieger discusses a recent report in Modern Healthcare, which talks about how nearly 30 percent of PCPs claim that they missed notifications of test results, leading to a delay in care, thanks to the over-abundance of information the EMR collects.

Would the use of mHealth technology such as tablets and smart phones cause harm like this as well? We’re sure to find out soon with mobile technology advancing among providers. Research shows that some providers are “gradually shifting their use of smart mobile devices from business functions like e-mail and scheduling to a much wider range of activities. Be sure to read some of Anne’s thoughts on the matter, and find out if this growth will continue at this pace.

And speaking of tablets, around 4,000 home care staff will be receiving a brand new Android tablet. Bayada, a national home care agency has recently sent out Samsung Galaxy Tabs to therapists, medical social workers and other home health professionals. Considering the fact that iPads are often the tablet of choice, this was an interesting move. The workers can document information while at a patient’s home, as well pull up data before going to the house. Will more healthcare providers be taking on the Android tablets, because of their lower cost? Chime in over at Hospital EMR and EHR.

There’s always some kind of new app being created to help people keep track of their health. Now, people can use uChek, an at-home urinanalysis, to keep their health in check. The mobile app, along with the uChek kits, allow people to test their urine for a variety of different markers. While it shouldn’t be used to replace a necessary visit to the doctor’s office, it could help prevent certain issues from getting worse by catching them early on.

With all this talk of technology in the healthcare world, one might wonder how it affects patient engagement. We recently switched pediatricians for my house, and while the last office was very tech savvy, this new office doesn’t have a computer in the offices, they give out paper prescriptions, and they have paper files. And to be honest, I love this office way more because of how personal the visit was, with no technology to distract the doctor. At our old office, the doctor stood far away from us, only looked at the computer the majority of the time, and it just wasn’t personal. However, because a lot of the mHealth technology does a lot of good, Dr. West over at the Happy EMR Doctor has some suggestions. He has created a list of 7 tips to help improve EHR etiquette, and this is definitely something all healthcare providers should follow. Just because there’s technology, doesn’t mean the importance of patient engagement should disappear as well.

Mobile for EMR Data Input

Posted on October 17, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Note: I know that there are some mistakes and incongruencies in this post. That was partially by design since it was illustrating my first attempt at voice recognition for blog posting. I did try and correct many things along the way, but as you’ll read some of it doesn’t read very well.

I’m stuck on the tarmac in JFK airport thought I’d try see how the voice recognition work today to input on a mobile phone.

Amazing thing is this is the first time I’ve used voice recognition on the Android S3 phone. It seems like a pretty good experience so far with voice even with a soft voice in an airplane it’s turning out quite well.

I was a little concerned about how long it would take to write a blog post on the phone but the voice recognition works out quite well. I have had to make a few corrections to it, but for the most part it’s done really well.

I’m not sure how many doctors will want to use voice and of course I haven’t done any medical terms for example I can talk about my son’s previous diagnosis of mastocytosis as an example to see how it will transcribe. As you can see I didn’t actually have to correct it and I got message cytosis without any problem so it did pretty good.  I wonder if other doctors have used the voice recognition on the Android phones or Android tablets to see how well it does with voice recognition of medical terms.  Although the second time I said mastscytosis it didn’t get it right.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the voice recognition. I have written this whole post in about 5 minutes and it’s the first time I’ve use voice recognition on the phone.  With that said I still probably rather type than use voice recognition for blog posts. However, I would rather use voice recognition than the keyboard on the phone.

Have you used voice recognition? In what ways to use voice recognition? I’m looking forward to using voice recognition more and I’ll let you know how it goes. What is amazing is that this technology is built into every new smartphone out there.

I’m off to the CHIME conference later today so I’ll have more details on that coming soon.

Mobile Health Moving The Network Edge Out Permanently

Posted on June 1, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Managing devices at the edges of the network is not a new problem.  In fact, looked at one way, we’re still dealing with the same problems of sharing computing intelligence that the first gen of client-server developers did.

But in a world where mobile devices are expected to do such critical work, I believe we’re at a unique juncture. HIT leaders are going to have to figure out how to completely transform balance between smart/dumb clients and their relationship to applications.  In other words, they’re going to have to manage from the edge in as well as from the core outward from now on. Too strong a statement?  Hear me out and see what you think.

Since the 1960s, we’ve gone back and forth between expecting edge devices to be dumb conduits for computing results (the green screen) and super-smart computing devices which needed the network only to connect users to each other.

Now, here in health IT land, we’re trying to find a balance that generations of brilliant developers and engineers have struggled to achieve.  With the advent of relatively cheap, flexible WiFi networks and widespread use of 3G/4G devices on the road, we’ve got the network infrastructure nailed for the time being.

But what do we do with the pesky limitations of those oh-so-popular iPads, Android tablets and smartphones?  Short-term, the answer for many IT organizations is making EMRs accessible only via devices that can run a remote desktop.  This compromise works for some users and is detested by others.  This may be a decent technical solution, but it may not be a usable one.

According to one reader, the way to create this balance is to create a better virtual desktop:

Were I a present-day EHR vendor, I’d start designing interfaces that work well when accessed via touch-screen devices that are using remote-desktop software, in preparation for a future when it is standard practice for all clinical staff to carry around iPad-like devices.

I think he’s dead-on. These devices aren’t an add-on anymore, they’re a permanent part of the clinical workflow where a lot of important, nay, life and death work will get done.  Readers, are you aware of anyone who has created an iPad virtual desktop interface which feels workable to the clinicians you know?

Guest Post: Will Your New Smartphone Ruin Your Practice?

Posted on April 29, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Guest Post: Hayden Hartland works at Spearstone, makers of Spearstone’s DiskAgent offering which provides a multi-platform approach to smartphone security by allowing lock, data-wipe, and GPS-tracking from any web-browser along with online backup for your business.

Breathtaking advances in smartphone capabilities are changing the ways we work and live. In their latest forms, phones such as the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Symbian, and Palm are beginning to rival, and in several areas (think GPS, camera and video) exceed the capabilities of laptops and desktops.

Increasingly, we email, keep contacts, track tasks and appointments, browse the internet, capture family moments, connect with friends, shop, and even run powerful business apps from our hand-held do-it-alls. No wonder then that surveys show some people giving up computers altogether for smartphones. Trends indicate smartphone sales and usage will exceed that of laptops in the next five years. Analysts describe a future where Smartphones that dock to keyboards and monitors obsolesce the laptop altogether.

The problem is that while smartphones are leapfrogging laptops and desktops in utility and connectivity, they have introduced security risks that too few take seriously. Unlike desktops and laptops where some of the biggest risks lie in viruses, and the eventual failure of spinning hard drives, the biggest risk with a smartphone is the loss and exposure of the information you store on it.

More than 5,000 smartphones are lost or stolen each day. Most smartphones hold thousands of confidential records – patient lists, emails, documents, medical records, patient payment records, and so on – yet there is little or no ability to prevent their compromise if your phone is lost or stolen. Many were carried by healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, dentists, office managers, billing providers, support staff, and so on) whose information represents real risk to their practices and patients if compromised.

Next time you notice a staff member, equipment rep, supply rep  or any BAA using a smartphone, consider asking, “Are our emails accessible on that phone?” and “If you lose it, can anyone access them on the phone?” If you are a medical professional carrying a smartphone you need protection because odds are that eventually you will lose your phone. Furthermore, HIPAA, the FTC and state consumer organizations require notification of all patients of a data breach (not exactly good for any practice or healthcare business).

Current phones and typical user practices do a poor job of safeguarding your confidential information. While many smartphones can require a password or PIN number to use them, few of us can tolerate the hassle of actually using one. We simply use our phones too frequently to put up with it. Yet without one, we’re completely exposed. And while a phone password may protect your information in the case of loss, it can’t stop someone with phone hacking skills who wants to access your information.

Here are some practical tips you can employ to reduce your risks:

  1. Create a passcode for your phone. If you (like me) hate being pestered by it, set it to be required after 4 or 8 hours, so that you only need to enter it once or twice a day. If your phone is stolen and locked the thief will either need to hack your phone or reset the phone to factory settings thereby removing all the data in the process.
  2. Create a splash screen when your phone is locked displaying a contact phone number or email address and reward value. Consider etching your name and contact information somewhere on the phone.
  3. Remove sensitive information from your phone as soon as possible.
  4. Write down your IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. If your phone is stolen, call your carrier immediately and ask them to deactivate the IMEI number and the phone will be rendered inoperable for calling on all networks. This ensures the phone is unusable although it doesn’t protect any unencrypted information on your phone.

Fortunately, a few larger clinics and hospitals are beginning to address these concerns. If yours is a larger practice with a Blackberry Enterprise server and or Exchange Mail Server and your users exclusively use the corresponding phones (Blackberries, and Windows Mobile devices), you can remotely remove emails and some other sensitive information in the event of a loss or theft. Other alternatives are to deploy encryption software or use the expensive MobileMe services provided by Apple. For other organizations, Spearstone’s DiskAgent offering provides a multi-platform approach to smartphone security by allowing lock, data-wipe, and GPS-tracking from any web-browser.