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The Food and… Device… Administration? As more and more doctors and other health workers bring their mobile devices to the workplace, the associated applications they use are seeing a corresponding boom in profits, investment and regulation.
For such a seemingly niche market, medical apps are actually making a lot of money. A recent report from Kalorama Information put the market for mobile healthcare apps at $150 million in 2011, with 25% growth expected year over year to continue for the near future. Numbers from Frost & Sullivan put the estimates even higher, with revenues projected to top $392 million by 2015.
The potential profit has drawn in venture capitalists by the dozens. Funding was up 78% in 2011 to $766 million for all health information apps (which covers both consumer- and care provider-focused products). The average startup is getting $11.8 million from investors; some growing trends are easy to spot.
All this influx of funding is coming at a critical time: the Food and Drug Administration has stepped up and clarified its efforts to approve both the mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and the associated apps for use in medical settings. Until now, only a handful of programs and services have been OK’d by the FDA for use in hospitals and doctor’s offices, with tens of thousands of dollars and months of testing required – a stark contrast to the fast-paced problem solving world of high tech.
Time will tell if the current profit projections and continued growth hold up, but the use of technology to quickly access information, monitor health conditions and improve communication is here to stay. The medical benefits are too many, the potential revenues are too large and the regulatory hurdles are too surmountable to stop this trend. So the next time you visit your doctor, don’t be surprised when you’re prescribed an app to download.
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