Apps hold out the possibility of fulfilling marketers’ persistent fantasy -- that consumers will record daily, personal activity and that this data will fuel on-going relationship marketing programs. This belief is especially strong among pharmaceutical marketers who dream of patient diaries and yearn for patient data as a door opener for the patient-doctor conversation, widely acknowledged to be the single biggest hurdle in the DTC.
Depending on how you count, there are as many as 97,000 existing mHealth apps ranging from broad-based health and wellness tools to single brand, single action apps. Three out of four are paid apps. Fifty seven percent are aimed at consumers and most are either dosing calculators or reference materials.
In real life, less than 1000 of these apps have more than 500 downloads. Pinch Media reports that just 30% of apps are used the day after they are downloaded. And twenty days later the number drops to 5 percent. Americans have an average of 41 apps on their but actually use just eight or 1 out of every 5 apps they download.
There are dozens of apps for chronic disease states like diabetes, asthma and depression that record incidents and data points or track adherence to dosing. The Pew Internet Project reported in January 2013, that 69 percent of Americans track some kind of health data and one in five of them use some form of technology. All apps live or die by providing either utility or diversion.
Apps could give us 24/7 medical monitoring with the potential to better understand how people respond to conditions and the opportunity for heath care pros and brands to be in regular conversation with people about their particular heath issues. Apps have the potential to marry data flows and body mechanics to Marcus Welby, MD.
But this won’t happen automatically. Marketers need to do much more ethnographic research about patients, better understand the practical behaviors and day-to-day attitudes of people suffering from diseases and think carefully about the interplay of 3 or more devices with each other and the real world in order to develop apps that real people will actually want and use.