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The Ever-Evolving Chronic Disease App Market

Intouch Team

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Currently, the mobile health app marketplace is dominated by fitness, wellness and diet apps. But it’s expected that the number of Americans living with chronic disease will grow to 157 million by 20201, predicting a need for the growth of chronic condition apps in both number and utility. recently highlighted seven mobile applications targeting chronic disease management:

  • AsthmaSense (asthma)
  • Crohn’s Diary (Crohn’s disease)
  • Glucose Buddy (diabetes)
  • Healthy Heart (blood pressure)
  • Kidney Diet (kidney disease or renal failure)
  • Smart Blood Pressure (blood pressure)
  • WebMD Pain Coach (chronic pain)

What this means to pharma

It is important to be aware of these apps and the best practices and emerging trends they represent in order to evaluate implications for brands as well as opportunities to fill patient needs. Above all, we should ensure that patient apps deliver relevance. Features such as those highlighted below can provide the value, information and support that patients seek.

Short-term tracking + long-term evaluation

On the most basic level, all of the apps featured in the FierceMobileHealthcare article are tracking apps. As well as daily tracking, however, the apps allow users to look at data from a long-term perspective, typically using charts to demonstrate trends in reports.

Encouraging behaviors with goals

Taking it to another level, goal tracking in WebMD Pain Coach shows progress toward specific goals selected by the user. Users indicate the duration of time they need to achieve their goal and then check off their goal each day until the duration endpoint. Progress is also illustrated by how many goals have been accomplished in a given day. If any goals have not yet been achieved for the day, they are displayed on the home screen.

Including additional content and education within the app

In addition to tracking, many of the apps also include content and educational information. Pain Coach includes a library that contains information about the user’s condition and other related topics. Applying a more timely approach to providing content, Healthy Heart contains relevant current news.

Building community around the app with sharing features

In addition to sharing logged information with others, some of the apps provide quick access to sharing with others about the app itself. Whether through an email, text message, or following the app on Facebook or Twitter, users can share their experience with the app with others and hear more about app-related news.

While providing easy access for users to share their experience with others, Glucose Buddy has also started building a community for app users. By connecting with the brand on Facebook or Twitter, users can hear more from the app, and in the process, the app becomes more of a brand with an identity that users can have a relationship with rather than just a utility. In using the forums in the app itself, users can also connect with each other, growing that community and reinforcing the connection with the app brand.

Additional commonalities and best practices worth noting in the apps include:

  • Maintenance of privacy while sharing app entries with others. This is achieved through password privacy on the device and more personalized sharing features through email or text message.
  • Facilitation of a direct connection to the patient’s HCP. For example, Healthy Heart provides the option to email a physician to provide access to the patient’s shared data.
  • Exporting or syncing information outside the app. Exports and sync provide users the ability to store their information more permanently and/or share it with others outside of the app. Data is shared via PDFs or patient portals in addition to exporting to Microsoft Health Vault (Smart Blood Pressure) or capturing images of a patient’s chart over time to save in the device’s photos (Glucose Buddy).

Spotlight: Crohn’s Diary

The Crohn’s Diary iPhone app, from Janssen Biotech, is the only app of the seven highlighted to be developed by a pharmaceutical company. It is an unbranded app, promoted on, as an offer which requires users to register for access. However, it is offered for free though the Apple Store.


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