Latest ORCHA healthcare report shows app boom during lockdown

ORCHA, the world’s leading health app evaluation and advisor organisation, released their COVID-19: Digital Health Trends & Opportunities For 2021 Report this month, and we’ve been fascinated by their findings at Apadmi.

As industry leaders in healthcare mobile solutions, we’ve worked with several of the UK’s biggest healthcare organisations including the NHS and Co-op Health.

We keep a constant eye on the horizon for the latest innovations in the healthcare sector – so we took some time to analyse the ORCHA report and distil its key findings to help guide us in the healthcare industry throughout 2021 and beyond. 

ORCHA healthcare report: Digital health usage trends – the lockdown app boom

The first area the report focused on was the searches for health apps during the pandemic vs the previous year. It’s here that we find the overarching trend of the lockdown app boom.

With the exception of Men’s and Women’s health, we saw every type of healthcare app gain more searches during the pandemic – with many areas growing by as much as 50% YoY.

Digging a little deeper, here are some of the most interesting trends that we found:

  • Weight loss support – There was a sharp increase in the number of fitness, diet and weight loss apps searched for during lockdown vs the previous year. We believe that this can be put down to two main factors – the change in lifestyle and the inability to attend weight loss groups. Both of these factors look set to stay constant in 2021, highlighting that diet and weight loss apps as one of the growth areas in the coming year, as people turn to tech and virtual coaching for support with their health concerns. We’ve already seen a few weight loss apps change to fit this need, including the NHS Better Health app and the Slimming World app.
  • Physio – Starting lockdown with a high uptake in searches that slowly dwindled to a slight increase over the previous year, physio shows a lot of promise to healthcare app developers. Our thinking is that the initial YoY boom of physio apps shows that there’s an appetite in the market for more remote treatment, but that the current offering didn’t meet user needs, leading to the drop-off. Several apps attempted to fulfil the need for a physio app including Physitrack and Phio, but we’ve yet to see a new leader emerge – with the correct physio offering, there’s definite potential there though.
  • Mental health/sleep – Perhaps the least surprising trend, as many have faced the challenges lockdown puts on their mental health, we’ve seen a sharp increase in mental health and sleep app searches. This area was already looking strong pre-pandemic, and we’re certain that many users who have adopted the apps during the pandemic will continue to use them in the future and be more open to further mental health solutions. Some mental health apps have gone as far as to offer some of their normally paid services for free to those who’ve lost their jobs or become furloughed, including Headspace.

ORCHA healthcare report: Most recommended, favourited and downloaded apps of 2020 

The trends we saw in searches are backed up in the ORCHA report by their most recommended, favourited and downloaded apps of 2020 on the ORCHA platform.

Of the 15 apps listed (top 5 in each category, not accounting for duplication) 9 are mental health or sleep apps, with a further 4 being weight loss apps and the final two being smoking cessation apps – which saw popularity pre-pandemic.

This section shows that search trends are directly translating into downloads and app usage. We believe this adds validity to the trends we identified above, making them powerful insights into the future of healthcare apps.

2021 Outlook: where do we go from here?

The report concludes with some discussion around the statistics. It highlights the need for medical practitioners to be better trained in health apps and for a commissioning system to be created in many healthcare organisations.

After sharing the report, we asked some of our healthcare experts within Apadmi, who work as part of our ongoing NHS partnership, to give us their thoughts on the future of healthcare:

“More than ever, we’re all tracking our own mental and physical health with apps and wearable tech, logging data daily. Empowering people to pay closer attention to their health means that we’re becoming more focussed on staying well instead of only interacting with healthcare services when something’s wrong. Healthcare providers have now strengthened their remote digital services which will probably continue post-COVID to suit the ‘on-demand’ easy access that we expect from every other industry these days. Long gone are the days of fighting to get a call through to your doctor’s surgery at 8am to try and bag a face-to-face appointment… I hope!” – Lizzie, Digital Designer

“The NHS has traditionally been very slow to adopt new technologies, but the restrictions brought on by COVID have forced GP surgeries to embrace changes such as using Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams, to hold consultations, as well as being more willing to send results by email. I expect that this new way of working will extend post-COVID. The pandemic has also seen the development of apps to track the spread of the virus via questionnaires, and in the early stages even try to identify people with COVID symptoms. The NHS’ own track and trace app commissioned by NHSX (a government body tasked with defining the NHS national policy on technology), has shown the government’s ability to deliver large scale IT projects in a timely manner.” – Xavier, Senior Software Engineer

Overall, our key takeaways with this report:

  • The general user base has become more aware of their health and the need for healthcare apps on their devices – the healthcare community must respond in kind
  • There’s clearly an opportunity for some major players (or new innovative start-ups) to conquer mobile fields like weight loss support, physio and mental health/sleep improvement
  • Consumer needs are changing and all brands, even those outside of the healthcare community, will need to address the health and wellbeing of their customers.

If you’re interested in how the Apadmi could help the healthcare industry in 2021 and beyond, please get in touch.

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