The Future of Mobile Health: Apps or HTML5?

Mobile health, or mHealth as buzzword lovers say, has always been a topic of conversation. Health has always been mobile in some respects. Lately, however, attention to it has swelled. With mobile applications for iOS and Android taking off, it’s no wonder attention to mHealth has also taken off.

Everyday, more and more healthcare applications enter iTunes or Android Market. Startups and hospitals and digital agencies are scrambling to get the hottest mobile health apps off the ground. Well, maybe not many hospitals…but I digress 😉

So it’s understandable that the future of mobile health heavily includes applications. After all, mobile devices offer geolocation; accelerometer action; convenience; speedy retrieval and rendering; social connectivity; and multitasking.

Interestingly, HTML5 offers geolocation and accelerometer action, in addition to a bunch of new (and long needed) elements. Developers could build HTML5 sites that could run as well as applications (under some circumstances).

HTML5 is currently under development, but elements of the language can already be used on mobile devices. To be sure, local applications will run, retrieve and render faster (for now). But as mobile internet access improves, I think we’ll see wider adoption of HTML5 as a viable alternative to applications.

My sense is that applications will be mostly disposable interfaces to transient solutions. In that sense, demand for being able to easily, affordably and universally upgrade products will rise.

As HTML5 matures and web developers get more comfortable using it, I suspect we’ll see a transition back towards cloud-based functions.

For Healthcare organizations and providers, budgetary concerns in the face of rapidly-evolving technological conditions just might make HTML5 an important part of mobile Health.


0 Replies to “The Future of Mobile Health: Apps or HTML5?”

  1. Phil,

    Excellent article….mobile web, as you pointed out, is quickly catching up to native apps in capabilities and looks. It’s a rare win-win in the fact it hits the largest audience for the cheapest price.

    I think the desktop landscape also has shown who has won the app (software) vs. web battle. Go to a Best Buy 15 years ago and software took up more room than music and video combined. Today it’s one small shelf. Users found an ideal path to find information on the computer. The web allows us to find an infinite number of solutions, whereas an app (software) pre-defines us to a select few.

    One thing to keep in mind is a third breed, the hybrid. A perfect example, for iPhone owners at least, is ESPN’s app, which is effectively a native app framework populated by mobile web content. The ability to have a native app with rich looks and quick interaction is still present, but so is the ability to pre-populate it with properly formatted web content. This allows one to still build cheap native app frames for the major players (BB, Android, iPhone, Windows 7, even webOS), then push the same content to all devices in a proper format.

    Still, I forgot who it was who coined the term…”the killer app for mobile is the browser”. If it’s a simple app vs. web showdown, the web will almost always be the winner.

    1. Hi Jason

      Great point about the hybrid app.

      I think we’ll see a combination of the two. And perhaps some vacillating, over time, between native and cloud.

      But in the next few years developers will at least have choices at hand for what works optimally.

  2. Phil,
    Thanks for the great article. HTML5 apps are becoming an increasingly attractive option.
    However, I believe native apps will continue to be the best choice for health related apps. HTML5 has about a 23 month lag behind native applications so apps that push the envelope from a visual or functional perspective will need to leverage the latest features to be competitive.
    Because of the different device resolutions, it is optimistic to expect more then a 30% reuse across iPhone and Android devices. This dampens the benefits of using HTML5.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *