Mobile health apps represent a sweet opportunity for those retailers trading on health and wellness

MarketsandMarkets has projected the global market for mobile health apps and other products is expected to reach a value of nearly $21 billion in five years, according to a new report. That's some 3.5 times larger than today — MarketsandMarkets estimates health apps generate some $6.3 billion today. That's also a lot of consumers/patients interested in getting a better handle on their own care — and that spells opportunity for pharmacy operators.

The truth is these could be very conservative figures. Both smartphone and tablet penetration is on a steep incline across the world, leading to more app downloads. And the baby boomer generation — most of them tech-savvy — aren't getting any younger. And that leads to more health and wellness downloads. 

According to another app market prognosticator — Portio Research — they placed the total app business at $12 billion through calendar 2012, representing more than 46 billion downloads. In 2012, more apps were downloaded than the previous five years, all taken together. 

And that sharp uptick in downloads will continue — Portio Research forecasts 82 billion downloads, overall, for 2013. Overall app revenue for 2013 is expected to reach upwards of $20 billion. By 2017, the global app market in total is expected to reach $63.5 billion. 

According to Portio Research, the number of apps any one person downloads has been leveling off in more mature markets such as Europe and North America. However, there are more devices on which those apps can be downloaded. That's driving the growth. Smartphone shipments worldwide are expected to reach 823 million in 2013, while tablet shipments are expected to reach shipments of 208 million. 

That said, the number of app users is expected to reach 4.4 billion worldwide by the end of 2017, Portio Research suggests, which is four times more users than there are today. 

While you really can't compare MarketsandMarkets' apples to Portio Research's oranges, the fact is both prognostications are as sweet. There will be billions of people worldwide all interested in bettering their health and wellness through technology. The pharmacy operator who figures out how to best tap into that self-care pool with a health and wellness center that effectively augments the utility of those apps — that's the operator who will successfully translate opportunity into gain.