Surging Demand for Health Apps
Contact lenses that measure blood glucose in tears, smart carpets that call for help when elderly people have fallen down, watches that record how much you walk, software apps that can spot autism in children or make life easier for diabetes sufferers: the mobile health market is both vast and growing, and this growth in Germany is, at present, being driven mainly by start-ups and by consumers willing to invest their own cash in digital solutions to improve their health.
Sales in the so-called mHealth market amounted to EUR 906 million in Germany in 2012 and will grow to some EUR 3 billion by 2017, according to the consultancy A.T. Kearney. Germany accounts for some 15 percent of global sales, yet experts say the market is still in its infancy and has enormous growth potential. The biggest mHealth segment is hardware — wearable devices — accounting for EUR 427 million in Germany, and projected to increase by 33 percent by 2017.
Surprisingly, given its image as one of the world’s top IT locations, Germany has been slower than other major economies to embrace digital technology in the health sector. Some analysts attribute this situation to the traditional fragmentation of the system, in which health insurers, medical professionals, and the government each play powerful roles.
However, some health insurers, such as Techniker Krankenkasse, the biggest in Germany, are already offering smartphone apps and online advice in response to growing pressure to cover more mHealth services. The German government, keenly aware of the importance of digital systems in cutting costs and improving medical services as the population ages, passed the “E-Health Act” in December 2015, to regulate and promote the market. It became effective January 1st, 2016.