According to the report, published by IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, the amount of mobile health (mHealth) apps have nearly doubled since 2015 with nearly 318,500 now available and approximately 200 new apps added daily,
Additionally, apps focused on health conditions and patient care now make up 40% of all apps, compared to 27% in 2015, according to the report.
“Some stakeholders in recent years have said that digital health has little evidence,” said Brian Clancy, senior manager, AppScript Analytics and co-author of the report.
“We decided to check in an exhaustive manner if that sentiment was true. Our exhaustive analysis of the clinical literature found that there is actually a great deal of evidence,” he told us.
According to the report, clinical evidence of digital health efficacy has grown to include 571 published studies, including randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and meta-analysis studies.
When asked what the implications are for contract research organizations (CROs), Clancy said the report observed two relevant trends for CROs and the research ecosystem.
“First, whereas the research apparatus including CROs have traditionally been focused on studying the value of therapeutics, our research shows that there is a significant and increasing interest across private and public sector sponsors in the study of digital health apps and connected sensors and their influence on human health,” he explained.
Today, 860 clinical trials across the globe now incorporate digital health tools, with 540 in the US. According to the report, a key focus is digital tools for remote patient monitoring and chronic health conditions.
While the term isn’t used in the report, Clancy said people are increasingly calling these evidence-based digital health apps, Digital Therapeutics.
Additionally, the report observed an increasing promise around digital biomarkers, specifically the use of new patient health metrics that can be collected by apps and connected sensors.
“To the extent that these digital biomarkers may serve as valuable surrogate endpoints for facilitating better, faster, cheaper clinical studies – clinical research organizations and the life science research ecosystem in general may benefit greatly from deep skills in the discovery, validation, use, and analysis of these digital biomarkers in clinical studies and beyond,” said Clancy.
The report predicts the potential annual savings from health-related apps in five therapy to be around $7bn. Across all disease areas, this number increases to a potential annual savings of $46bn.
The inflection point
App developers have done the work, Clancy said: “They have built highly usable apps that have proven their clinical and economic value via, arguably, the best vehicle our society has for expressing that proof – peer-reviewed published literature, and more specifically, randomized controlled trials.”
Now, Clancy said the pressure is on other parts of the patient care ecosystem, including policy setters, guideline writers, health systems, EMR vendors, etc. – “to do their part in realizing the promise shown in the studies.”
“That’s the inflection point we are at,” he explained.
The questions remain, Clancy said: “Does the broader healthcare system want to sign up for the proven benefits of digital health? Do they want to invest the time and money to make it work?”