The term “mHealth” is pretty broad in nature. There are at least two distinct branches stemming from the core concept of mobile health: connected devices and digital applications. Of these two branches, here is a list of subcategories of digital health applications:
web The original mHealth application is a web site that allows users to manage their health from their own personal computer or laptop. 77% of Americans have an Internet connection, and websites make it easy for people to keep track of their information in one place, accessible from anywhere there is an internet connection. The downside to the web is that lack of mobility compared to the other two options.
pros – high user penetration
cons – limited mobility
sms Although texts aren’t as sexy as Smartphone applications, SMS is accessible to 91% of Americans… and those Americans send five billion text messages per day according to the CTIA. Besides being nearly ubiquitous, SMS also allows users to pick a time of day to receive a specific message that they can respond to, making it great for tracking things related to health. One limitation with SMS is the time and expense associated with purchasing a shortcode, however services like Tropo and Twilio have brought down that specific barrier to entry.
pros – nearly every American can text
cons – not glamorous technology
apps The number of health and fitness related apps for Smartphones is climbing everyday, and healthy Smartphone applications definitely receive a lot of publicity. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t own a Smartphone today. It’s safe to assume that this will change over time, as processors get smaller, faster and cheaper, but it’s tough to reach a massive audience on a platform that has yet to be widely adopted. A further limitation to the pure Smartphone health app is that the data is local to the mobile device and not connected in any way.
pros – integrated into smartphone experience
cons – not for everybody, data may not be connected
Director, Clinical Platforms