Study finds increasing mHealth demand

By Erin McCann
08:05 AM
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More and more Americans are keen on the idea of using mobile devices to better monitor their health, according to new survey findings released Tuesday.   

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive and HealthDay, revealed that one-third of Internet-using adults expressed interest in using smartphones or tablets to make doctors appointments, receive medical test results of communicate with their doctors.   

[Related: Harry Greenspun's 4 factors driving personal mHealth.]

Similar numbers of respondents were eager to use mobile phones and tablets for actual healthcare services, including monitoring blood pressure (38 percent) or blood sugar (32 percent). Out of all age groups from 18 through 65 and older, individuals aged 25-29 expressed the most interest in obtaining diagnostic tests using mobile devices.   

"This poll shows us that the public is interested in using these apps," said Titus Schleyer, head of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Regenstrief Institute, in a press statement. "But the healthcare system has to make it easier for them to do it."  

Right now, many of these phone and tablet apps for these type of diagnostic tests are either just gaining traction or not yet available to consumers, researchers said.

Despite more than one-third of Internet users indicating an interest in using mobile devices to manage their health, the majority remain unconfident in the privacy capabilities of mHealth devices, specifically with protected health information.

Out of the 2,000 survey respondents, only 13 percent said they were very confident in the privacy of their medical information online. More than one-third indicated they were not very confident or not at all confident regarding mHealth privacy.    

[See also: Pros and cons of the app economy.]

According to a March Research and Markets report, the mHealth app market is poised for 61 percent growth by 2017, reaching a value of $26 billion globally, the increase primarily stemming from the market "commercialization phase."  

Authors of the Research and Markets report also noted consumers are currently driving the first, or commercialization market phase, by buying personal mHealth apps. This growth will be limited, however, because doctors are not on board in many regards.

The market is not well-regulated and doctors are wary. This, the authors said, will eventually prove to be a significant barrier to entering the next, or integrated phase of market growth, where doctors will begin to integrate mHealth into their treatment plans.