Patient groups most likely to use mobile phones for health: study

A new Manhattan Research study, which starts off rather pedestrian, contains a surprise. The trend of increased used of smartphones for health is not it, as it follows online use: 95 million Americans now use their mobile phones for health information or tools, up 27 percent from 75 million a year ago, and the Cybercitizen Health US 2013 study of over 8,600 Americans found that 38 percent of online smartphone users consider it “essential”. What sets the study apart from the usual enumeration and semi-puffery is the discovery of which patient groups find smartphones most useful and are most likely to use their phones for health reasons. It is closely linked to medical chronic conditions, but not the ones you think. In order:

  1. Cystic fibrosis
  2. Growth hormone deficiency
  3. Acne
  5. Hepatitis C
  6. Migraine
  7. Crohn’s disease
  8. Chronic kidney disease
  9. Generalized anxiety disorder
  10. Bipolar disorder

What’s missing and unusually so are the far larger diseases of diabetes, obesity, cardiac disease, respiratory and cancer. What is notable is that three in the list are behavioral: ADD, anxiety and bipolar (manic-depressive) disorders–and migraine is not only pain but affects behavior. It seems to this Editor that these may be underserved groups where patients are heavily researching online, in support groups or using apps/tools to help manage their conditions. The release does not speculate. Hat tip to reader Ellen Fink-Samnick of Ellen’s Ethical Lens.

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  1. Hello Donna,
    This is fascinating! I’m dismayed – yet not one bit surprised – to see my own diagnosis of cardiovascular disease not anywhere on this list. The results in this category mimic earlier study findings on patients’ participation in social media, too. For example, when the Minneapolis market research agency Russell Herder released a report called “Seeking Social Solace, they found that the most popular social media platforms for patients were blogs, online patient message boards, Facebook and Twitter, yet heart patients represented a puny 2% of all diagnoses reported. More at:

    I am surprised, however, to see that cancer’s not represented on this Cybercitizen list (in the Herder study, 40% of the medical conditions disclosed by patients online were cancer-related).

    I’m guessing that’s because this new study specifically looked at using smartphones to go online for health reasons (as opposed to using a tablet, a desktop or – as I’m doing now – a laptop). What do you make of it?

    • Donna Cusano

      Hi Carolyn,
      I am very surprised as well–perhaps it’s the form factor but cystic fibrosis being #1 is puzzling. I wish I could afford this study to find out more–perhaps Manhattan Research will spot this and offer a clarification.

  2. Age-related? E.G. most cystic fibrosis patients are younger demographic, already well-plugged into smartphones? Keep us posted when you learn more . . . Thank you!

  3. Fascinating and it makes me wonder if the study results provide an insight into why telehealth/care/medicine has not really taken off here in the UK where focus has been mainly on using it with the ‘top 5’ chronic conditions. I note also that many of the top 10 are not well served by primary care service providers i.e any mental health issues, Crohn’s.
    I also think Carolyn may be onto something with the age-factor.