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Apps for Health and Wellness

Apps for Health and Wellness

By Eeva Kiuru, Oulu Wellness Institute Twitter: @eevakiuru

The variety of health and wellness mobile applications is huge. The app platforms iOS, Android and WindowsPhone are basically open for anyone to jump in. 12-year old kids are developing apps. Fathers are hacking apps for the benefit of their autistic kids. A Romanian startup is preventing skin cancer with their app. It’s fascinating. The ecosystem is working and anyone can learn to build code and join this galore.

Apps are our new hands-on tools for health. As we speak, thousands of new ones are being developed and downloaded. On the other hand, medical professionals, physicians and nurses are trying to figure out how to get the most out of this new stuff that’s pouring into the marketplace. Could an app be prescribed instead of drugs ? In the US and UK many doctors are already prescribing apps for their empowered patients.

How to find the trustworthy and high quality apps for health and wellness ?  How to get going in your own app project ?

Here’s some advise to get started and inspired.

1. Check out what is already out there

There is already lots of high quality health and wellness apps available and you can find them listed for example at iMedicalApps. It is an excellent resource to find out what problems are solved already and what not or at least not in a smart way. 

2. Learn from the best

While there already exists a magnitude of apps for health, it is important to take a careful look at the best ones and learn from them. You can find apps rated and reviewed not only by the app marketplace, consumers, peers and communities but also by media or parties dedicated to analyzing the quality of apps.  

You can find several Top 5 lists chosen by the media. According to Wired magazine, industry’s top 5 apps are The Eatery, MyFitnessPal, BabyBumpPregnancyPro, WebMD, SleepCycle and Eat, Chew, Rest. There’s also ratings for the best apps for the doctors and health care professionals. And here are the suggested top free apps a doc should prescribe to their patients.

3. Find the key design elements of an excellent app

Why are some apps so popular ? Is there something in the design ? Is it so simple that it sticks to user’s daily routine easily? Why do users stick to some of them ? What is the Hook ? What is the data they are using ? Look also the best of breed in other categories. Check out the most addictive games and think of applying the same design mechanics to your app.  

4. Think about the app business model

By comparing the existing applications you can also compare the alternative business models. Do you plan to get customers to pay for your app or is it free ? There are four basic revenue models. First, customer paying per download, is for the developer a one-off opportunity to get revenue from the app. Second, your app might be built to justify monthly subscription fee.  Third, your app is free and you must think of other revenue sources, usually advertising. In-app advertising is a volume game and brings revenue only for the most popular apps. Fourth model is to offer premium elements on top of a free app. While these are the basic revenue models, you should not limit yourself to these. Maybe you are about to create another innovative health app with a totally new business model ?

This blogpost was originally presented 3.5.2012 at Welltech seminar “Ideasta mobiilisovellukseksi hyvinvointialalla“.