An underserved market: only 0.2% of migraine sufferers use migraine apps by David Ireland Berlin, February 01, 2017 Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world effecting 1 billion people worldwide^.
However, this demographic of migraine sufferers is heavily underserved by mobile health applications, with only 0.2% of migraine sufferers using a migraine app. But why? A major opportunity exists for an application with the right strategy, and the right balance of features and functionalities to lead the market, while having a positive impact on the health of migraine sufferers.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation (2017), migraine is the sixth most disabling illness in the world.
More than 4 million people suffer from chronic migraine attacks every day. U.S. healthcare and loss of productivity costs are estimated to be around US$36 billion annually; just the cost of brain scans of headache sufferers alone comes in at around US$1 billion per year. Migraines are responsible for a huge loss in productivity, rendering 90% of sufferers unable to function normally, costing U.S. employers US$13 billion, and 113 million work days in 2016.
Far from being just a bad headache, migraine attacks can cause a diverse range of disabling symptoms such as severe pain, nausea and visual disturbance. While medications exist to help treat symptoms, migraine sufferers need to carefully manage their medication intake, while monitoring risk factors such as food, sleep and triggers to treat, and prevent the condition from becoming chronic. Tracking medication is critical, as most chronic migraine sufferers are a result of medication overuse.
To achieve this, migraine apps could provide users with the following (in no particular order of priority):
- _Log-books / diaries: recording migraine events to help the user better understand their condition, while allowing for a better communication between the user and GP
- _Reporting: for analyzing and summarizing the users’ behavior, triggers, risk and symptoms, while allowing for a better communication between the user and GP
- _Information repository: peer reviewed educational content aimed at educating the user on neurological conditions, and how best identify, treat, manage and prevent them
- _Pattern recognition: based on historical user data to notify the user of high risk scenarios
- _Sensors: using weather sensing to learn about the ways in which the weather influences migraines
- _Remote consultation: using audio and video to connect users with GP’s
- _Coaching: using health coaches to help sustain healthy behavior change
- _Data operability: allowing seamless transfer of user data into and out of the app
- _UX and design: making the app user friendly and appealing to migraine sufferers of all ages
- _Gamification: using incentives and rewards to influence healthy behavior change
Only 0.2% of migraine sufferers use a migraine app. Assuming that only migraine sufferers have downloaded a migraine app (which may not be the case, resulting in an even lower penetration), only 10 million migraine sufferers downloaded migraine apps in 2016 out of a potential 1 billion. It is therefore within reason to say that this target group of migraine sufferers is heavily underserved.
Currently, migraine apps are not meeting the needs or demands of sufferers, nor the potential.
From a user’s perspective, here are eight reasons why we believe migraine apps are struggling to penetrate their target groups:
- _App feature and functionality gaps
- _Low app quality; usability limitations, UX and design outdated and not user friendly
- _Lack of awareness; amongst patients and GPs of the benefits of migraine apps
- _Lack of support from GPs; unwilling to recommend the app use among patients
- _Lack of support from payers; very few examples of health insurance cover for migraine apps and related services (E.g. coaching for migraine patients)
- _Lack of diagnosis; GPs fail to diagnose migraine disorders in patients due to a communication breakdown between patients and GPs of headache related events