Top 10 medical apps - where is big healthcare?

We recently concluded a study where we looked at 2000 apps developed by 100 of the worlds largest companies across various industries and found some interesting trends and challenges. One of the biggest challenges that we uncovered was, on average, the mediocre quality and distribution of apps developed by large enterprises. Let's illustrate this in concrete terms. The top 5 app categories of enterprise developed apps included:

  • lifestyle apps
  • medical apps
  • health and fitness apps
  • gaming apps
  • entertainment apps

Now it might be quite easy to brush aside lifestyle app viz. dating and fashion apps, as being of the trivial variety (we don't think they are), hence for this exercise we decided to look at a more serious category of apps - medical apps. Below is a list of the top 10 free medical apps on App Annie (as of March 2nd 2014).

App Name Developed By Entity Type USP
PulsePoint PulsePoint Foundation Non-Profit empowers people to perform CPR
Rain, Rain Sleep Sounds Tim Gostony Indie Developer helps fight insomnia
Good Rx - Prescription/Medicine Prices & Coupons GoodRx Startup reduces healthcare care costs
Doctor on Demand Doctor on Demand, Inc Startup real time video consult with a physician 
Weedmaps Weedmaps Media Inc.  Startup reviews of medical marijuana strains &  dispensaries
Leafly Marijuana Strain and Dispensary Reviews Leafly Subsidiary, Privateer Holdings reviews of medical marijuana strains &  dispensaries
MyCharts Epic Small Enterprise (Private) centralized access of personal medical record
Pregnancy+ Health & Parenting Ltd. Startup complete pregnancy guide 
Ovia Fertility Ovuline Inc. Startup helps couples conceive faster
Glasses Off GlassesOff Small Enterprise (Public) helps you read without glasses on your iPhone

It is amazing that not one of the top 10 free medical apps have been developed by a large enterprise (neither were any of the top paid apps). In fact you have to go to #10, before you find an app (GlassesOff) that has been created by a publicly traded company of any sort, and at a market cap of a little over a $100M, GlassesOff hardly represents the epitome of a large enterprise.

In fact it is not until you scroll all the way down to #18 (see below) that you find an app developed by even a medium size enterprise ($100M - $1B in revenue) - WebMD.

App Annie Medical.png

To find an app developed by a legit big healthcare enterprise, you have to scroll all the way down to #27 and Quest diagnostics (see below)

App Annie Medical 2.png

Why is this? Do large enterprises genuinely not care to develop high quality apps and to find every available means to distribute these apps to their target audience? Or do large enterprises not know how to build high quality apps and to distribute them widely? We think its a bit of both - many large enterprises are still trying to make sense of the app ecosystem and what it could mean to their businesses. For the most part their top lines haven't yet been impacted, so to them the app world looks like a novelty that can - at best - help them promote their brands. Unlike all of the apps in the top 10 list, they don't always solve real or meaningful customer problems. This in turn then leads them to build lower quality apps, and care much less about the distribution of their apps. That they continue to pour money into apps is without question - in our study large enterprises have released a median of 9 apps on iTunes or Google Play. However the value they derive from the apps they have deployed is questionable. Almost 50% of apps developed by large enterprises across verticals have not been rated, and over half of them have fewer than 10,000 downloads across iTunes and Google Play combined. 

Our recommendation to large enterprises is simple. In as far as consumer facing apps are concerned, they are much better off building few higher quality apps and focusing on the distribution of those apps, vs. trying to deploy a splattering of mediocre apps with very limited user value. There are several reasons why the 10 medical apps have made it into the top 10, but the most compelling remains that they solve very real problems - from saving lives to helping couples conceive. Large enterprises can do worse than to start by looking at the most critical problems their customers or clients face that can be solved by mobile technology, and then building the highest quality app that can solve said problem. 

The mobile revolution - its only just beginning!

In most of our interaction with large companies so far we have found that interest in what we are doing, as well as in mobile general, originates from these companies' marketing organizations. It is not surprising that when a new communication medium emerges, marketing is the first organization in a company to take notice and look for novel ways to build brand awareness, interact with consumers, and generally  find ways to communicate value to end users of a product or service. What is surprising though is that most companies have yet to take advantage of the full capabilities of mobile. Quite literally your average smart phone can:


Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 7.38.11 AM.png

The implications of the mobile phone as a communication device are well understood, however the other aspects of it, in particular, it's ability to compute and sense while being mobile, its most distinguishing feature from the PC era, are quite a bit less harnessed by companies.

 Compute: In terms of CPU speed, memory, storage, etc., the iPhone 5 is as advanced as most average laptops from even half a dozen years ago. Granted, the screen size does not compare favorably to most laptops or desktops for visually interactive or analytically complex applications, however if this Indiegogo campaign for the Ubuntu Edge (apprx. $7M of $32M has been funded in 5 days) reaches it goal, then even that challenge will be sufficiently mitigated in the not too distant future. Whether the Ubuntu Edge achieves this, or a near future generation of iPhone or Anrdoid device, its only a matter of time before a convergence occurs between your mobile phone and your laptop. There will of course be people that need more computing power and will supplement their mobile device with a laptop, desktop, an EC2 cluster or even a supercomputer, however a majority of people will be able to make do with just one all-purpose computing device. 

Samsung Galaxy 4S Sensors

Samsung Galaxy 4S Sensors

Sense:  The number of sensors being built into mobile phones is increasing with every new release. Add to this, the increasing number of external sensors that you can connect to your smart phone and the possibilities are immense. Consider for example Kinsa's smart thermometer, it plugs into the iPhones headphone jack, tells you your body temperature, provides information on local illnesses, and allows you to quickly secure an appointment with your nearest urgent care facility.

While Mobile: This is the essence of what makes mobile, mobile. The ability to communicate, compute and sense, while on the move and in the midst of every day economic activity, is truly what makes mobile game changing. Once more marketers are the first to the party here with geo-precise targeting of marketing campaigns. Startups like Nomi take it a step further and allow retailers to track in-store behavior of customers and reward loyal customers. Again here, its only a matter time of time before mobile begins to:

  • replace every aspect of whats in your wallet - from credit cards to loyalty cards to identification cards
  • becomes your personal health monitoring aid, particularly when your on the road, helping you measure body temperature, glucose levels, and blood alcohol content
  • almost completely replaces the need for non-core automative computing capacity in vehicles - it has already replaced the need for an external MP3 player, and is threatening to do the same to an external GPS

We truly believe that mobile is a paradigm shift in what computing offers, and the opportunities that it can create are on par with, if not greater than, the opportunities created by personal computing. In some ways its an extension of the personal computing revolution, but in many ways its a new revolution in its own right.