What Are We Doing to Identify the Best Health Apps?

Tom Sullivan asks a great question about mobile health apps. How many of them really matter? I coyly replied on Twitter that it’s only the ones that get used. In the article Tom Sullivan links to in the tweet above, Jack McCarthy says the following:

With some 165,000 health-related apps available, in fact, a mere 36 comprise nearly 50 percent of downloads. Not to be confused with 36 percent, that’s a total of 36 applications, according to a study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics that analyzed 26,000 apps.

That’s pretty startling to think that 36 apps comprise half of the mobile health app downloads. However, these shear numbers aren’t really a problem on their own. I’ve seen hundreds of apps that shouldn’t have more than a few thousand users. They’re so niche that their entire target market is small.

The biggest problem I see is how are doctor or patients suppose to find these niche health apps amidst the other 165,000 health related apps. That’s like finding a proverbial in a haystack and we’re not talking about a little mini haystack, but a massive haystack.

The best we have today is great mobile health websites like mobihealthnews and iMedicalApps that do what they can to keep up with all the changes. They do a good job covering the industry, but even if they both covered 1 app a day (which is not an easy endeavor), then we’d still only learn about 730 apps a year of the 165,000 out there. That’s 0.4% of the health apps that exist or what we’d call a rounding error.

This is not an easy task. How do you filter the wheat from the chaff (and there’s a lot of chaff)? I have a feeling in the medical world that the various specialty specific medical societies will be one filter for mobile health apps. Those societies could perform a really great service for their members by identifying the health apps that apply to their specialties and helping vet those apps out.

How do you think doctors and patients will be able to filter through all the health app noise? Is this an opportunity for an entrepreneur?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Trusted voices in the digital community, a.k.a. social media influencers, are in perhaps the strongest position to lead this charge because they have built audiences through valuable, objective content. There are plenty of voices right now clamoring for providers to adopt and prescribe mHealth apps, but they fall short of specifics.

    IMO, crowdsourcing, growth hacking and specializing are keys. Crowdsourcing could be a crowd-generated list of top ranked apps like the #HIT99 / #HIT100. Specializing would be avoiding generic lists that attempt to be relevant to everybody (and as a result are relevant to nobody). Create crowd-generated lists of the top childhood cancer apps, the top vascular disease treatment apps, the top nursing scheduling apps, etc. The more specialized and specific, the more relevant they will be.

    Methods: Ask nominations to be based on actual experience with the apps. Those that have proven to be useful will float to the top. Integrate contests and nomination processes into conferences, industry events, etc.

    I’ll take it on if no one else will!

  • Jared,
    I agree in concept. As you describe some of the options I start to think about the ways that people can game the system. I also think about the ways to ethically make money off of such a list. It’s a real challenge to do it right. Especially if you want to make a business of it which is important if you want the project to last.

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