Smartphone apps are set to become the killer health care product as a research report projects that some 500 million people will be using them within five years.
According to the Global Mobile Health Market Report 2010-2015 compiled by research2guidance, more than a third of 1.4 billion smartphone users in 2015 will be running some kind of mobile healthcare application.
Ralf-Gordon Jahns, head of research at research2guidance, said that while the potential benefits of mobile health applications have been widely discussed for more than a decade, the market is only now ready to take off.
"Our findings indicate that the long-expected mobile revolution in healthcare is set to happen," he said in a statement. "Both health care providers and consumers are embracing smartphones as a means to improving healthcare."
Mobile health (mHealth) applications allow doctors to monitor patients, no matter where they are, in real time.
The emergence of consumer health electronics devices like portable ECG machines, blood pressure monitors and weight scales can help physicians seamlessly capture and transmit patient information from home, work or from the road.
Portable ECGs, for instance, weigh just 3.5 ounces and allow users to record electrical heart signals and transmit the patterns to doctors to monitor.
According to a report released by Accenture earlier this year (download PDF), the rise of inexpensive Internet connectivity along with the development of smaller, cheaper and "smarter" health electronic devices should help health care workers deliver better, more efficient health care to patients.
While most of today's mHealth applications are aimed at consumers, close to half (43%) are designed for health care providers, according to research2guidance report. Among those applications are continued medical education programs, healthcare management and remote monitoring applications.
Currently, there are 17,000 mHealth applications in major app stores, with 74% of them are obtained through application service providers. As more physicians and healthcare facilities embrace mHealth apps, business models will broaden to include healthcare services, sensor, advertising and drug sales revenues, the research2guidance report states.
"With the growing sophistication level of mHealth applications, only 14% of the total market revenue in the next 5 years will come from application download revenue" said Engle Mikalajunaite, a senior research analyst with research2guidance.
Seventy-six percent of revenue from the mHealth application market will come from related services and products, such as remote monitoring sensors, according to Mialajunaite.
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.