Health App Usage Soars As Prescription For Consumer Medical Needs
By Bruce Japsen, Forbes, Contributor
The trend is being fueled in part by the move away from fee-for-service medicine to value-based care and efforts to coordinate better medical care. And with employers and the government unwilling or unable to pay more for health care services, some see apps as a way to further digitize the industry and squeeze waste from the system. Meanwhile, consumers are demanding easier access to medical care services via their smart phones for scheduling appointments, ordering prescriptions or talking to a doctor via a video consultation that’s cheaper than a traditional physician office visit.
“In 2016, millions of American consumers will have their first video consults, be prescribed their first health apps and use their smartphones as diagnostic tools for the first time,” according to a report out this week from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) undefinedHealth Research Institute. “These new experiences will begin to make real the dream of care anywhere, anytime, changing consumer expectations and fueling innovation.”
Already this year, nearly one in three consumers, or 32 percent, say they have at least one health app on their smartphones or tablets, PWC said. That percentage has doubled from 2013, PWC said.
Take Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), which first launched its app in 2009, and today it refills one prescription ever minute via customers’ mobile devices. The Walgreens app is among the most downloaded, reaching as high as third behind Amazon (AMZN) and Groupon GRPN +33.33% (GRPN), according to a 2014 analysis of retailer apps.
“Walgreens has built its business on taking care of our customers,” Walgreens president Alex Gourlay said at last week’s Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York. “We do that through our locations on the best corners in America, through one of the most downloaded apps in retail and through the data we get from more than 2 billion transactions a year.”
Apps are used by health insurers and employers to help subscribers or workers manage weight, cholesterol, blood sugar or blood pressure, according to health insurer Cigna (CI) which released a study this year on incentives that are used to engage health plan enrollees. And pharmaceutical companies have created more than 700 apps to reach their customers, PricewaterhouseCoopers said.
Yet despite this growth, the Pricewaterhouse Coopers analysis said “smartphones, connected medical accessories and apps have been underutilized by the healthcare industry.
“In 2016, care will begin to shift into the palms of consumers’ hands, helping to drive down costs, increase access and fulfill the public’s desire for ‘anywhere, anytime’ monitoring, diagnosis and treatment,” PricewaterhouseCoopers said in its report.