Global Standards Authorities Are Failing To Keep Pace With The Rapidly Evolving Wellbeing App Market

The health and wellness app market is booming. During 2020 and continuing through 2021, innovative wellbeing app providers are experiencing significant customer increases leading to increased awareness, revenue growth and successful funding rounds. Consider mental health app provider Ginger, which achieved roughly three-fold revenue growth over the course of 2020, helping it secure $100 million in Series E funding. It is easy to see why market growth has been so prominent, in addition to rising demand for wellbeing support exacerbated by the global pandemic, apps are fast developing to offer increasingly sophisticated treatment. Although the uptake of wellbeing apps and the resulting increase in treatment accessibility and scalability are undoubtedly positive attributes, concerns are rising over the unregulated nature of the market.

Two important factors are driving demand for health and wellness app regulation. Firstly, wellbeing apps are being used as interventions to treat serious health issues across mental illness, nutrition, sleep, and musculoskeletal disorders. For instance, wellbeing app provider Resiliens has developed self-guided programmes to help users overcome addiction and substance abuse, body dysmorphia and bipolar disorder. In some cases, app-based solutions rely fully on AI and digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to deliver treatment, with no support from medical professionals (see Verdantix Smart Innovators: Digital Mental Health And Wellbeing Solutions). Due to the seriousness of the health issues wellbeing apps address, there can be severe consequences resulting from incorrect diagnosis, erroneous prescriptions, and inadequate treatment quality. Secondly, wellbeing apps collect highly granular user health data. Data can be collected both in app and through integration with wearable devices. For example, Dreem’s specialised headband for sleep quality features six EEG sensors, a heart rate monitor, an accelerometer and microphone, to accurately monitor user sleep patterns. Detailed clinical information collected and stored by wellbeing apps necessitates regulation surrounding data privacy, confidentiality and security infrastructure.

The pace of wellbeing app development and the rapid uptake in users has left regulation trailing. Consequently, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) are working collaboratively to develop a global standard that ensures health and wellness apps are safe, reliable and secure. The resulting ISO/TS 82304-2 standard is currently under development and is due to be released in August 2021. To learn more about the digital mental health and wellbeing market and the impact of increasing regulation, view our latest research.

EHS Global Standards Authorities Are Failing To Keep Pace With The Rapidly Evolving Wellbeing App Market 05

Christopher Sayers

Analyst, Verdantix

Chris is a Technology Analyst in the Verdantix EHS practice. His current research agenda focuses on digital mental health and wellbeing solutions. Chris joined Verdantix in 2020 and has previous experience at EY, where he specialised in robotic process automation (RPA). He holds an M.Eng. in Engineering Science from Oxford University with a concentration in machine learning and machine vision.