Mobile health apps are rapidly growing

Yet, many data protection concerns remain unsolved

As the awareness for healthy lifestyle is increasing, the demand for continued monitoring of vital signs is also on the rise. It is therefore no surprise that the mobile health app market is also rapidly expanding and is expected to grow annually even further at the rate of about 47.6%, according to a recent study.

After all, mobile health apps and solutions help clinicians to document more accurate and complete records, improve productivity, access information and communicate findings and treatments. They also improve health outcomes, reduce error rates and maintain low cost, while at the same time help in making healthcare accessible in remote and isolated areas in less time, thus reshaping the healthcare industry worldwide. Currently there are over 350,000 health apps in the app stores, and some of the more popular topics include weight loss, pregnancy, diabetes, cardiac monitoring and mental illness.

Advanced connectivity to improve the quality of healthcare solutions, penetration of 3G and 4G networks to provide continuous healthcare service and improved cost efficiency to support medical professionals are some of the other key factors driving the growth for the global mobile health app and solutions market. In addition, increasing healthcare awareness of chronic disease management is also helping the process.

Globally, North America is dominating the domain of healthcare information technology, i.e. eHealth or digital health. Europe is also showing high growth in health apps. European countries like Germany and the UK are the EU Member States in particular that are more into health apps. The European Commission, in addition, has launched a public consultation on mobile health on Green paper, where users of health apps can comment on the barriers and issues related to their use. But at the same time, a study by Incisive Health International on eHealth found out in 2017 that 73% of people across seven major EU countries have never used a health app - and that three quarters of the people that have are 34 years old and younger.

As the IHI states, few of the reasons for the e-revolution in healthcare not having reached its potential across Europe yet, are perceived reliability, data protection concerns and a lack of health system endorsement. And it seems that the data security of these apps is indeed a huge issue.

Last year, for instance, MyFitnessPal, one of world's most used fitness tracking apps, disclosed a data breach which affected as many as 150 million users. Two months ago, it was revealed that some of those stolen credentials are now popping up for sale on the dark web, with hackers having their hands on credentials from 15 other websites, as well, thanks to that data breach. Meanwhile, an international study, conducted by researchers from the University of New South Wales and Harvard Medical School showed last week that of 36 apps they looked at, 33 sent data to outside organisations, and 29 sent data to Facebook or Google - only 12 of them made this clear in their privacy policy statements. The examined apps were reportedly one of the most highly-ranked used for depression and quitting smoking.

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