The smartphone application market for mobile healthcare increased seven-fold to reach $718 million in 2011, but is set to rise much more.

That is one of the key findings of a report from research2guidance, mobile market research specialists. The analysis notes that while the mHealth market "is still in an embryonic state…theoretically the market potential is enormous given the overall worldwide healthcare market size of $6 trillion and the potential use cases and benefits for mobile patient healthcare support".

The main drivers for this growth have been "the increase in the smartphone user base on the demand side", and the doubling of the number of mHealth applications on the supply side. The study notes that a majority of drugmakers "have discovered mHealth applications as an innovative way to promote and deliver" their services and products.

The researchers add that "a number of these large players published mHealth apps in 2011 that go far beyond a simple allergy tracker or pill reminder". They highlight Sanofi's sensor-based iBGStar diabetes monitoring app, a blood glucose meter that connects to an iPhone or iPod.