Pew: Health app adoption same as last year

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 3, 2011        

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Pew Health Apps AdoptionFor more than a year now the Pew Research Centers’s Internet & American Life Project has been tracking the adoption of health apps by adults in the US. In September 2010 Pew found that about 9 percent of all adult mobile phone users in the US had downloaded an app that “helped them track or manage their health.” In its most recent survey in August 2011 Pew found that about 11 percent of all adult cell phone users having downloaded an app that helps them manage their health. While that is a slight increase over last year’s number, Pew characterized it as “a statistically insignificant difference.” App adoption, therefore, has been largely stagnant over the past 12 months.

Pew writes that “health apps” include those that capture “a wide range of software applications, from those that count calories and help manage an exercise routine, to more advanced apps that monitor vital signs and help individuals manage serious health conditions.”

The survey conducted this past August, however, was conducted a bit differently: “In August 2011, the question was asked of adults who have downloaded an app to a cell phone or tablet computer, rather than all cell phone users. More than a quarter of this population (29 percent) report downloading a health app. Looking just at adults who download apps to a cell phone, this translates to 11 percent of all adult cell phone users having downloaded an app that helps them manage their health, a statistically insignificant difference from the 9 percent of adult cell users who reported having a mobile health app in September 2010,” Pew writes.

Pew also found that the new survey results show little change among health app adoption rates among different racial/ethnic groups.

Be sure to check out Pew’s entire report, which focuses on overall cell phone and apps adoption — not just for health. Full report freely available here.
If you’d like to learn more about health apps, be sure to register for MobiHealthNews’ webinar: What Makes A Health App Effective? (Complimentary Registration Here)

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New iPhone medical apps: Telethrive Ringadoc, JASN

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 3, 2011        

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eat chew restEvery day dozens of new health-related apps make their way into the AppStore. This week we noticed about a half dozen health apps that we felt were worth highlighting, including the quiet launch of a video consultation app that has made a lot of noise pre-launch (more on that below).

MobiHealthNews continues to track the growing number of apps available to both medical professionals and consumers. As we predicted in our recent Professional Apps Report, by next summer we expect the number of iOS apps intended for use by medical professionals and medical students to top 9,000 apps. The number of health-related iOS apps intended for use by consumers will grow to more than 13,000 by next summer, according to MobiHealthNews’ Consumer Health Apps Report.

Read on to learn about the newest health apps that joined the AppStore during the past week — the ones worth knowing about, anyway.

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ONC to gauge consumer opinions on mobile health privacy, security

By: Neil Versel | Nov 2, 2011        

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ONC's Dr. Farzad Mostashari

ONC National Health IT Coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is conducting a series of focus groups to gauge consumer opinion on privacy and security of mobile health technologies.

ONC’s Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, which is running the focus groups, is looking to “explore the attitudes and preferences of a diverse sample of consumers with respect to the communication of health related information on mobile phones and devices, including text messaging,” according to a brief listing on a page of HHS “Text4Health” projects. The plan is part of the Obama administration’s “open government initiative.”

In a widely distributed email sent out this week, ONC said it would employ a “a qualitative data collection approach to obtain in-depth information from mHealth users regarding privacy and security concerns with this technology and perspectives on potential safeguards.” The office specifically mentioned Skype as an example of mobile communication of health information in a list that also included text messaging, on-the-go email access and downloaded apps.

Research will span multiple populations across the country, according to the email. ONC provided few additional details other than saying it would make results of its research available sometime next year.

The public contact for the project is ONC Chief Privacy Officer Joy Pritts. She can be reached at joy.pritts@hhs.gov.

Epocrates adds personalized app recommendations

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 2, 2011        

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epocratesEpocrates announced a major update to their chart topping drug reference app this week, including a customizable app directory and faster access to medical content.

The updated app includes a customizable home screen for faster access to frequently used features, a new notification system, and, most notably, an App Directory. The App Directory allows users to download medical apps from within Epocrates, with recommendations provided  based on the user’s provided areas of interest.

The App Directory includes both paid and free apps, and currently features Epocrates EHR, Netter’s Anatomy Flash Cards, Growth Evaluation Tool, BMI Tool, Pregnancy and Infant Care MRC and Epocrates CME. Epocrates said that clinicians are “overwhelmed” by the thousands of clinical apps available today, and the new App Directory within the Epocrates app hopes to address that.

MobiHealthNews’ contributing editor Neil Versel recently shared this thoughts on why private app stores could be the ‘Next Big Thing’. What sets Epocrates’ list of curated apps apart from other curated app store offerings is that Epocrates suggests particular apps for individual users based on that user’s profile. Apple recently put together a new, curated section of its AppStore that presents medical and health apps intended for use by professionals. The curated, medical app store under development by Happtique helps healthcare organizations create their own appstores to better enable enterprise-wide distribution. Unlike Epocrates and Apple’s curated lists, however, Happtique said it would not be in the business of deciding which apps were “good” or “bad”.

“Mobile apps are only as valuable as they are useful,” stated Rose Crane, president and chief executive officer of Epocrates, in a press release. “We’ve advanced the user experience of our world-class drug reference app and added a singular channel to discover, store and access reliable tools. Furthermore, this is a fresh foundation for new partner engagements and opportunities to deliver even more value-add resources to our network.”

Epocrates consistently remains a top free download in iTunes medical category. Leading up to the recent relaunch of their mobile app, the company named Facebook’s mobile chief, Erick Tseng, to its board of directors this summer.

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Read the press release below. Keep reading>>

75 percent of nurses own smartphones or tablets

By: Chris Gullo | Nov 1, 2011        

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Springer Survey Nursing SmartphoneAccording to a new study conducted by textbook publisher Springer Publishing, 74.6 percent of nurses in the US use smartphones or tablets. Of those smartphone owners, 43.7 percent own an iPhone or iPod Touch, 29.8 percent an Android phone, and 22 percent an iPad. The survey was conducted in September 2011.

Curiously, the number of respondents that said they owned a smartphone or tablet (821) matched the number who said they were primarily employed at a college or university. While it’s not clear, we believe that means about 821 of the respondents were nursing students. No surprise if the majority of nursing students use some form of smartphone or tablet, but that would make the overall metric coming out of this survey less compelling.

The publisher’s survey include responses from approximately 1,100 respondents. Many of the respondents possessed Master’s degrees in nursing (40.5 percent).

In a separate survey conducted by physician mobile and online community QuantiaMD this summer, eighty percent of physicians said they owned a smartphone and 1 in 4 MDs owned both a smartphone and a tablet. Manhattan Research surveys indicate that more than 80 percent of US physicians now use a smartphone or PDA.

According to the Springer survey results, despite the substantial amount of smartphone and tablet owners, almost half (46.4 percent) of the nurses surveyed have never downloaded a medical app. Of those that did, 27 percent downloaded only free apps, 22.7 percent downloaded both free and paid, 3.8 percent only downloaded paid apps. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of respondents said Epocrates was their favorite app.

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Read the full survey results here.

Massive Health’s first experiment: The Eatery app

By: Brian Dolan | Nov 1, 2011        

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The Eatery 1Massive Health, a closely watched Silicon Valley-based mobile health startup, launched its first iPhone app this morning. It’s called The Eatery and it’s a free app only available for iOS device users. The app joins the more than 1,300 diet related apps available in Apple’s AppStore.

“You don’t need a logbook. You don’t need a calorie counter. You don’t need to scan another barcode. The Eatery is totally different [from] other apps. We don’t waste your time with details that don’t matter,” the app’s description reads.

Andrew Rosenthal, who is heading up business development for Massive Health while completing his MBA at Harvard Business School, told MobiHealthNews in an interview this morning that what makes Massive Health different from a lot of companies working in mobile health is its focus on user engagement. “We build things that people are going to love to use. Our approach has always been to focus on user engagement partly because no one else does. The more someone loves something, the more they use it, and the more opportunities we will have as a company to help them be healthy.”

The Eatery app’s most engaging feature is the “Fit or Fat” food rating system, which sees community members providing feedback on the photos of food other app users submit. Massive Health was partly inspired by an old Internet site, Hot or Not, which allowed users to rank the attractiveness of people who submitted photos to the site. Rosenthal said that future versions of Fit or Fat might, for example, only show pictures of food snapped by vegetarians to those following that diet, but the current version of the app tees up any random users any user’s food photos for ranking. Worth noting, the current app also identifies the person who took the photo of the app if that user authorized the app to connect through their Facebook account, Rosenthal said.

While the app aims to automatically tag photos of food with locations of restaurants, bars, or coffee shops for those users who location-enable it, MobiHealthNews found that on a few occasions the app chose wrong. In a comment on one of our food photos, Massive Health CEO Sutha Kamal wrote that the app was typically right when it guessed location.

At the Hacking Medicine event at MIT last week, Massive Health’s CEO Sutha Kamal told the 100 MIT engineering students in attendance to keep three things in mind: Develop quickly, think about feedback loops, and make sure you ask the right questions. Rosenthal said that many of the healthy eating apps available today fail to ask the right questions or create appropriate feedback loops. Keep reading>>