According to research from the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (Orcha), health app downloads, especially mental health app downloads, have surged by 200% because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mobile health, also known as mhealth, ehealth, telehealth, and digital health has been around for decades, but the public acceptance towards it had been slow. However, the use of healthcare apps rose to new heights during the pandemic as more and more people looked for ways to cope with their physical and mental health issues.
“Mental health has always been a top search query and can be seen back to January 2019. But looking again to March 2020, we can see a magnification of this which has continued into the end of 2020,” the report said.
“This may have been fueled by an increased prevalence of mental health concerns and increasing unmet needs for face-to-face psychological services due to the second lockdown in November and the cumulative effect of Covid-19. This may also be a reflection of growing awareness of digital health solutions within this space.”
According to the app download statistics from the report, there has been an overall 25% increase in health app downloads, along with a notable surge in the use of digital health tools.
App download statistics further showed that downloads of mental health wellness apps rose by 200% from summer 2019 to summer 2020, diet and weight control apps increased by 1294% during mid-2019 to mid-2020, and the downloads of diabetes control check apps increased by 482%.
The apps with the highest volume of downloads were Wysa for stress and anxiety, NHS Weight Loss Plan, Smoke Free, Low Carb Program and Lincus Companion, a health and weight loss program.
What does the future trend look like for mobile health apps?
With lockdowns still imposed in 2021, it is expected that the merits of digital healthcare within cancer, cardiovascular and stroke services and maternity and women’s health services will be discovered by new sectors.
“As we enter another wave of national lockdowns, although health services remain open, there are still efforts to treat people remotely. Now, and when life slowly comes back to a new normal, we must continue to harness digital health to address the health and service issues left by Covid-19 and not lose the gains that digital health has provided over this period,” the report said.
Moreover, to ensure the growth of digital health in the years to come, there needs be a rapid expansion of structures put in place in 2020, along with improved procurement system, and better education for health and care professionals.
While talking about the report, Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO of Orcha, Liz Ashall-Payne, expressed that there has been a major increase in the health app downloads in 2020. She further went on to say that with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) expected to set out guidelines on digital health “(2021) will be the year when health and care staff embrace the full potential of apps – and it goes way beyond video conferencing”.
“We will start to see digital approaches being integrated into care pathways,” she added.