Potentially big market for adherence apps emerges

With more than 143 million smartphone users nationwide — and a $290 billion-per-year problem — developers have ample opportunities

A new study by IMS Health finds that most apps focused on health and wellness have limited functionality or evidence of value in advancing healthcare provision and outcomes, with fewer than half of them directly related to patient health and treatment, and more than half of them having fewer than 500 downloads.

With more than 43,000 health-and-wellness apps from the Apple App Store alone included in the IMS study, but a dearth of apps for elderly patients with chronic conditions, there is ample opportunity for developers to address this need. That will become especially important as health care becomes increasingly focused on patient outcomes. And this means opportunities for apps that address the ever-present issue of poor medication adherence.

According to the market research firm comScore, 143.3 million people in the United States owned smartphones in September, representing 60% of the mobile market, with Android and Apple devices constituting the majority. This also represents a potentially huge market for apps aimed at patients showing poor adherence — a problem that, according to a widely cited study by the New England Healthcare Institute, costs the healthcare system $290 billion per year. As illustrated in a special report on medication synchronization in the November issue of DSN, some vendors already are developing apps designed to improve connectivity between pharmacists and their patients.

Recently, the American Pharmacists Association listed 11 apps focused on adherence in an article on its website, including five for Apple's iOS, two for Android and four for both platforms. Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association earlier this year identified 160 adherence apps for Apple, Android and Blackberry and concluded that "Despite being untested, medication apps represent a possible strategy that pharmacists can recommend to nonadherent patients and incorporate into their practice."

This is what makes the acquisition of Catalina Health by inVentiv subsidiary Adheris so timely. As the companies said in their announcement, the combination of the two companies gives Adheris "unmatched" reach through a network that includes 30,000 pharmacies and 65% of all retail prescriptions — not to mention the ability to deliver such adherence communications as refill reminders to millions of patients via mobile. 

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