Surveys look at digital health adoption, reasons for hesitance

By: Jonah Comstock | Mar 8, 2013        

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Source: Ruder Finn mHealth Report

Source: Ruder Finn mHealth Report

Several surveys were released this past week at — or coinciding with — HIMSS, focusing on different areas of consumer engagement in digital health. The Atlantic surveyed 1,000 US residents, finding that only 12 percent had emailed or texted their doctors. A Ruder Finn survey of more than 1,000 US adults found that 16 percent of smartphone and tablet users access health apps regularly. Finally, an online study by IEEE of 1,200 Facebook members (mostly engineers and technologists) explored attitudes about connected health devices, finding that only 9 percent listed health as a way in which they’re most interested in using connected devices.

The Atlantic study, conducted in conjunction with GlaxoSmithKline, found 64 percent of people taking health into their own hands, looking up some kind of health information online. Of those, 59 percent used WebMD, 22 percent used Google, 17 percent used the Mayo Clinic website, and 12 percent used their health insurance website. The top reason for using these sites (64 percent) was seeking general health information, but 40 percent cited self-diagnosis and 38 percent said they were evaluating whether to see a doctor.

On the subject of emailing with doctors, the study found that hypothetical attitudes about online physician engagement dwarfed actual practice — 31 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay for online consultations with their doctor, and 20 percent said they would be willing to communicate with their doctor online.

Similarly, the IEEE respondents‘ hypothetical interest in using connected medical devices was high, despite being more excited about the internet of things in the context of work. The survey found that 68 percent of respondents would be comfortable using a connected device that monitors health information, and 72 percent believe such a device would improve their wellness.

Ruder Finn’s study of mobile engagement found that by far the most popular health apps were fitness and wellness apps, not an unexpected finding. Forty-nine percent of respondents who used health apps said they used healthy eating apps, and 48 percent named similar categories: fitness training apps and calorie counter apps. For nutrition apps, the figure was 46 percent. Similar to the Atlantic study, only 12 percent said they would use an app to videoconference with their doctor.

Patients were also asked which mobile capabilities they most wanted to see their doctors use. Forty-two percent said they wanted their doctor to have an app to see their test results, 33 percent cited remote monitoring devices, and 30 percent wanted doctors to have access to patient health records via a mobile device. A surprising 13 percent said they didn’t think apps would help improve patient care at all.

While Ruder Finn asked patients about physician mobile health tools, a survey from Accenture, conducted by Harris Interactive, asked physicians about patient engagement. The survey of 3,700 doctors across eight countries found that 82 percent of doctors believe patients should actively participate in their health by updating their own electronic health record. Only 31 percent believed patients should have full access to their record, though, with 65 percent saying they should have only limited access and 4 percent saying they should have no access at all.

Most interestingly, although the three studies that looked at adoption found relatively low adoption of mobile health engagement, two of them also looked at the reasons consumers don’t engage. Ruder Finn asked those who did not use health apps why they didn’t. Twenty-seven percent said they didn’t have any need to access health-related apps, 26 percent said they preferred to talk to a doctor in person about health issues, 11 percent were concerned about sharing information with an app, 9 percent didn’t find apps helpful, and 7 percent didn’t know they were available.

The IEEE study asked respondents to name the biggest challenge to the adoption of connected health devices, in their opinion. Of those surveyed, 39 percent were concerned about the security of data and 46 percent cited privacy concerns. It’s clear that regulators and developers will have to continue to emphasize privacy and security to get to a point where consumers are widely comfortable with mobile health services.

MobiHealthNews coverage of the HIMSS13 event in New Orleans is sponsored by AirStrip Technologies.