In the past week or two, this Editor has been working her way through a stack of surveys and journal-published research, all heavily promoting the greater interest in and usage of consumer mobile health. Here we have Monique Levy of the well-regarded Manhattan Research finding in their surveys (via Mobihealthnews):
- 86 percent of the general population is online for health
- Half of those use mobile
- Two-thirds use social media to seek health information
- One-third communicate digitally with doctors
- Three-quarters interact with online pharma resources
- About 20 percent of patients say that mobile is essential for managing their care–increasing to 32 percent of people with diabetes, 39 percent for people with MS
Before the D3H (Digital Health Hypester Horde) crowd vaults over the moon, however, Ms Levy states that “What people mostly do on their smartphone is look for information.” She recommends optimizing websites (in this context, primarily pharma) for mobile search, and apps should address “real customer pain points or niche needs”, not just a cool tracking app.
Yes, but the D3H point out the fifth annual ‘Pulse of Online Health’ by Makovsky Health (healthcare PR agency) and Kelton (research), a survey of over 1,000 adults, headlining that almost two-thirds (66 percent)of Americans would use a mobile app to manage health-related issues, with millennials (18-34s) twice as likely to be interested than those 66+. However, discerning readers will immediately flag that last statement as almost a straw man: well, of course those who are natives of the mobile phone world will naturally gravitate to it. The rest of the release, with attention-grabbing numbers, is conditionally larded with ‘would be willing’, ‘reflect proactive desires’, ‘express interest’. And the giveaway is the word would—woulda, coulda, shoulda, it doesn’t mean they are(a). Note the falloff even in this Never-Never Land as usage gets more specific (again from Mobihealthnews):
- 91 percent of respondents said they would search online for health information
- 58 percent would use online search to manage an existing condition
- 57 percent to explore symptoms and 55 percent to research a treatment that’s been prescribed to them.
The numbers sink, contrary to reasonable assumptions, if they were diagnosed with a medical condition: 41 percent said they would research symptoms online, 26 percent would research treatment options, and 18 percent would research specialist doctors and treatment facilities.
And yes, of course in the Woulda World, 79 percent would be willing to use an undefined ‘wearable’ (watch? band? pendant? shirt?), mainly for tracking physical activity and symptoms. Contrast this to Ms Levy on wearables: don’t worry about them unless you’re responsible for thinking five years ahead.
D3H hearts sink….
Let’s look at studies which look at where mHealth can do the most good–adherence to chronic disease management. The Journal of Medical Internet Research did a meta-study of 107 studies to evaluate the effectiveness of mHealth on the management of cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes. Methods included were SMS (text); phone plus software or application; phone plus specific instrument (medical device connected to phone via a cord); or phone plus wireless or Bluetooth-compatible device. SMS (40.2 percent) was the most commonly used tool and the primary platform. From the abstract: “Of the 41 RCTs (randomized controlled trials-Ed.) that measured effects on disease-specific clinical outcomes, significant improvements between groups were reported in 16 studies (39%). It concluded: “There is potential for mHealth tools to better facilitate adherence to chronic disease management, but the evidence supporting its current effectiveness is mixed.” iHealthBeat points out the difficulties surfaced in the study: difficulty understanding and using the technology; and concerns among providers about the amount of time and effort required to review data and respond to patients.
FierceMobileHealthcare also references in their article the potential for SMS (text) in mental health, med adherence, teen diabetics with engagement and with healthcare teams.
For this Editor, this confirms the wisdom of the 2013 Parks Associates study which was analyzed by us here in Drawn and Quartered last year. The health conscious, either healthy or health-challenged, are the ones most likely to use mHealth tools, including apps. Yes, that audience ticks just over 51 percent–in potential.
Takeaways: Perhaps the simplest form of mobile communication–the least expensive and the one that crosses age, education and income lines proves to be the most effective, versus Bluetooth and other device related forms of measurement. mHealth is not to be found purely in apps–the apps need to solve a consumer problem. And it does not help the app cause that bogus apps like Mole Detector and some hypertension apps are like weeds in the summer–and that there is no public vetting mechanism or even a rating system, save for those who want to peruse iMedicalApps–and whatever happened to IMS Health’s AppScript/AppNucleus anyway? [TTA 9 Jan]