D'Arcy Gue

Today’s FFAQ: MHealth is Huge, But What Is It?

November 6, 2015

Healthcare IT 2 Minute Read

Fascinating FAQs…This post is part of an ongoing series offering byte-sized nuggets of  HIT-related info that you never realized you should know.

Today’s FFAQ: What is mHealth and why should you care?

mHealth represents the nearly 100,000 mobile health apps that are being  downloaded everyday by healthcare providers and personal users around the world. They are most commonly used on smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. Notably, these hot new technologies are applied far more commonly by other countries’ healthcare providers for patient treatment than in the U.S.

The global health and fitness app market is estimated to be $4 billion now, but will explode to as much as $26 billion by 2017. (Research2Guidance) Despite reported concerns about cost, privacy, and high data input requirements, nothing is stopping this market and the expansion of its capabilities.

Some surprising new information about how the world is using mHealth:

  • In the United States, a brand new study of 1604 smartphone users shows that 58%  had downloaded  at least one mHealth app, and 42% had downloaded five or more apps. The most downloaded and used health apps relate to personal fitness and nutrition, as reported in this month’s Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).  Drilling down,  53% of users tracked physical activity, 48% tracked food consumption, 47% monitored weight loss and 34% gave exercise instructions.
  • But usage, worldwide, is taking other directions. More than half of mobile users use mHealth apps to relax or train their minds, followed by apps to support weight loss (20%), according to a study of 15,000 mobile users in 15 countries. (MEF’s Global mHealth and Wearables Report 2015).
  • The big news is physician usage. A remarkable pattern has emerged internationally with regard to using mHealth in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. In the Middle East, Indonesia, China and India over 50% of users have observed a medical professional applying a mobile device in healthcare. By contrast, developed Western nations are lagging significantly. In the US, 37% of respondents have seen mobile devices used in healthcare; in France, 34%; and in Germany and the UK, 31%.  See bar chart for a global analysis of healthcare professionals’ usage of mHealth, from the MEF Report.


Forms of healthcare mHealth applications used in the U.S. and elsewhere include helplines, diagnostic and treatment support, communication and training for healthcare professionals, disease tracking, and remote monitoring / data collection. In February, 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance on the kinds of apps that need to be regulated and those that don’t, with the intention of enabling increased development and application of new, safe and effective mHealth technologies.

Hang on to your stethoscopes, M.D.s! You may be in for another bumpy technological ride.


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