Digital Health

Engaging Consumers for Healthy Living: Health Apps

by Harry Wang | Jun. 1, 2015

Health apps are presently used by a limited segment of smartphone users, and the time span for use of health apps is relatively short in comparison to other types of apps.


A wide variety of apps compete for the consumer’s limited attention span. On average, smartphone owners use roughly six apps on a monthly basis and that figure has not changed since 2012. Health apps are used by just one-fifth of smartphone owners. These consumers spend less time using health apps (both in terms of hours per week and average session lengths) relative to users of other types of apps. This highlights a key difference between health apps and apps used for entertainment purposes, and it is critical that app developers find a means to boost their health app usage over time so that health benefits from app use can be sustained and validated.

Few non-users express interest in using health apps and generally, health apps do not have broad appeal. Less than 10% of non-users express interest in using any of the tested health apps—a sign that the practical benefits of health apps are either not desired by or not communicated properly to a wide range of consumers.


The appeal of a “master” health app that aggregates information from multiple health apps is limited by the relatively low use of health apps. Roughly one-fifth of smartphone and tablet owners find the concept of a master health app that aggregates data from all health apps “very” appealing. Appeal is somewhat higher (25%) among those age 25-34. The appeal of a master health app only begins to increase sharply once consumers are using 5 or more health apps.


Health apps are commonly used in conjunction with digital health devices. The appeal of a master health app is higher (40%) among those using a health app in conjunction with a digital health device.


The success of health apps will be tied to the success of the adoption of digital health devices and/or on the incorporation of health tech into smartphones and smart watches. Health apps face an uphill battle among consumers when positioned as stand-alone offerings. However, rising adoption of digital health devices and the incorporation of health tech into smartphones and smart watches will greatly improve the prospects of health apps in general and master health apps in particular.


The health app industry is moving to become more data integrated. Apple’s HealthKit and Google’s Android Wear support collaborations between third-party app developers and can foster development of 3rd-party master apps that show users integrated health and fitness data from multiple apps or sources.


The ability for app developers to access health and wellness data from other developers’ apps through HealthKit or Android Wear could stimulate innovations. This includes new features that can provide better insights about the impact of lifestyle choices and daily behaviors on health and wellness as well as better diagnosis and care management through integration of wellness data with patient’s EMR records.


Harry Wang

Harry Wang

Senior Director of Research

Harry Wang oversees Parks Associates’ mobility and apps research, which covers mobile/wearable devices and services, apps and APIs, and mobile commerce/marketing, payment, and connected car industries. He is also the founder and lead analyst of Parks Associates’ digital health research program since its inception in 2006. He and his team cover emerging health technologies, applications, and services in areas such as chronic/preventive care, independent living, wellness and fitness, and virtual/convenience care.

Harry has published more than 40 industry reports and white papers and presented his mobility and digital health research at numerous industry events including CES, Mobile World Congress, CTIA, Open Mobile Summit, World Health Congress, the American Telemedicine Association Annual Trade Show, and Parks Associates’ CONNECTIONS™ and Connected Health Summit conferences.

Harry earned his MS degree in marketing research from the University of Texas at Arlington. He also holds an MBA degree in finance from Texas Christian University and a BA degree in international business from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, P.R. China.

Industry Expertise: Digital Health Products and Services, Portable and Mobile Access Platforms and Applications, Digital Imaging Products and Services

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