An underserved market: only 0.2% of migraine sufferers use migraine apps

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 migraine apps.* 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.^

The main promise of migraine apps is to provide migraine sufferers with a way to better manage their condition, decreasing the chances of migraine attacks, of headaches intensifying into migraines, and of the condition becoming chronic. To achieve this, migraine apps could provide users with the following (in no particular order of priority):

  1. 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
  2. Reporting; for analyzing and summarizing the users’ behaviour, triggers, risk and symptoms, while allowing for a better communication between the user and GP
  3. Information repository; peer reviewed educational content aimed at educating the user on neurological conditions, and how best identify, treat, manage and prevent them
  4. Pattern recognition; based on historical user data to notify the user of high risk scenarios
  5. Sensors; using weather sensing to learn about the ways in which the weather influences migraines
  6. Remote consultation; using audio and video to connect users with GP’s
  7. Coaching; using health coaches to help sustain healthy behaviour change
  8. Data operability; allowing seamless transfer of user data into and out of the app
  9. UX and design; making the app user friendly and appealing to migraine sufferers of all ages
  10. Gamification; using incentives and rewards to influence healthy behaviour change

The mHealth community is well aware of the success of, say, the improved health of diabetes sufferer’s thanks to mobile health applications. So, with the global prevalence of migraine sufferers reaching the 1 billion mark, one can assume that migraine apps are serving their target group in large? Right? Wrong.

Only 0.2% of migraine sufferers use migraine apps.* 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. So why is it that migraine sufferers aren’t making use of the current selection of migraine apps? Is it an app quality issue? Are sufferers lacking an awareness? Are GP’s? We believe that it is a mixture of these reasons, and more. From a user’s perspective, here are eight reasons why we believe migraine apps are struggling to penetrate their target groups:

  1. App feature and functionality gaps
  2. Low app quality; usability limitations, UX and design outdated and not user friendly
  3. Lack of awareness; amongst patients and GPs of the benefits of migraine apps
  4. Lack of support from GPs; unwilling to recommend the app use among patients
  5. Lack of support from payers; very few examples of health insurance cover for migraine apps and related services (E.g. coaching for migraine patients)
  6. Lack of diagnosis; GPs fail to diagnose migraine disorders in patients due to a communication breakdown between patients and GPs of headache related events

As we see it, the opportunity is there for the taking; the capabilities that lie within mobile health apps are yet to successfully make it into the migraine arena. Competition levels are low, and with the hype of mHealth continuing to raise awareness amongst migraine sufferers, it is only a matter of time before this market segment picks up amongst the demographic of 1 billion migraine sufferers.

Want to know more about the opportunities we’ve discovered in world of migraine apps? We would be happy to hear from you. Please get in touch with us at info@research2guidance, or leave a comment. Alternatively, download our free mHealth Developer Economics 2016 report for a look into the best-in-class mHealth apps, and other interesting mHealth industry related content.

^Migraine Research Foundation (2017)
* (1) Based on the assumption that only 20% of migraine app downloaders actively use the app; (2) research2guidance market research.


  1. Musaad Abdullah says:

    Migraine and other Neuro/CNS related diseases are definitely underserved, more research is required to gain insights on which patient/healthcare need represents growth area, this might range from anything between education and changing behavior up to sensors and point-of-care diagnostics… what app is available right now? no idea for me..

    • David says:

      Hi Musaad,

      Thanks for your comment. We agree, more research needs to be done into identifying the real needs of both patients and providers. Some of the current market leaders include Migraine Buddy, HeadApp and Migräne App.