GRAND RAPIDS —When Dr. Mark Gostine found out that he was going to be a grandfather, he did what any caring doctor-dad would do: He sent health tips to daughter who was expecting her first child.
Often, he sent those tips via text message, and his daughter would then forward the information to her pregnant friends.
That exchange planted the seed for babyQ.
With his business partner Dr. Gareth Forde, formerly of Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, they were inspired to develop babyQ through their own research on nearly 40,000 deliveries in West Michigan.
To date, the free app available on iTunes has been downloaded by thousands of women from more than 20 countries since it was launched in November, said Gostine, president of Michigan Pain Consultants in Grand Rapids.
The partners worked with ProCare Systems Inc. of Grand Rapids for the technical development of the app.
The moms-to-be answer a 22-question survey and then receive custom maternal and fetal health tips via text messages or on the app’s website, www.babyq.Com.
“We designed a survey for young women to help guide them throughout pregnancy to improve their babyQ score,”Gostine said. “We can help women turn on the correct genes while their babies are still in the womb, setting the stage for better physical, emotional and intellectual development, including IQ. We hope to reach more of them through their smartphones.”
The babyQ app is a local example of a growing global trend in health care technology.
Mobile software developers have begun to move from beta testing to commercializing a new class of applications dubbed mHealth, a sector that a recent study predicted would generate $26 billion in revenue globally by 2017.
Ralf Gordon Jahns, co-founder of Research2Guidance and a Berlin, Germany-based mobile research specialist, said in his study, “Global Mobile Health Market Report 2013-2017,”that health care companies now view mobile phones as a great way to reach patients 24/7.
In his study, Jahns said so far, there have been more than 3 million free and 300,000 paid mHealth app downloads in the United States on the Apple iOS platform. Not only are consumers taking advantage of smartphones to manage and improve their own health, but mHealth is also gaining favor with health care professionals.
A significant number (15 percent) of mHealth applications are primarily designed for them, according to estimates in the study. These professional-focused apps include Continued Medical Education, remote monitoring and health care management applications, like babyQ.
Jahns noted there are currently 97,000 mHealth applications in major app stores, 42 percent of which adhere to the paid business model. With more and more traditional health care providers joining the mobile applications market, the business models will broaden to include health care services, sensors, advertising and drug sales revenues, he predicted.
“Western countries have mobile penetration of well over 100 percent,”Jahns said in a telephone interview. “mHealth is one segment where some great mobile use cases have been made.”