Consumer adoption of digital health still huge market opportunity

'Nearly half of Americans have used only one or none of the major digital health categories'
By Erin McCann
11:03 AM
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What's quite possibly the biggest market opportunity in the digital health arena? As a new Rock Health report suggests: It's consumer engagement. And it's going to bring big things to healthcare.

In its new Digital Health Consumer Adoption report, Rock Health officials surveyed more than 4,000 U.S. consumers to get to the bottom of a few questions they had. First, they wanted to know the rates of penetration for six major B2C digital health categories -- think telemedicine and wearables, for instance. Then, they looked at the behavioral and demographic drivers of adoption. And lastly, they wanted to get a pulse on how folks feel about sharing their health data.

[See also: Vendors lagging with patient engagement technology.]

What they first found was that adoption rates remain remarkably low. For instance, across all six major digital health categories analyzed – use of online health information; use of online health reviews; mHealth tracking; wearables; genetic services and telemedicine – the adoption rate averaged just about 27 percent. Despite the scores of health applications available to the consumer together with all the hype around wearable these days, Rock Health officials calculated adoption rates to be only 17 percent for mHealth tracking and 12 percent for wearables. 

Genetics services and telemedicine were even lower, both at 7 percent. 

"Nearly half of Americans have used only one or none of the major digital health categories," Malay Gandhi, managing director at Rock Health, and Teresa Wang, the company's strategy manager, wrote in the report. "No iconic company exists in the consumer category, perhaps representing one of the largest opportunities in digital health."

Gandhi and Wang also identified two categories poised for the fastest growth: wearables and telemedicine, with 100 percent and 40 percent adoption growth respectively.

[See also: Docs need to make consumer engagement a priority.]

And what about drivers? The strongest indicators of digital health adoption, according to the report, are health status and consumer attitudes. And the individuals adopting at the fastest rates? They're actually the unhealthy ones.

Gandhi and Wang also took a look at consumers' attitudes toward data privacy, and although the majority of consumers (92 percent) think they should be in control of their health data, the lion's share of them (80 percent) say they would share their health data to receive better care.

"This suggests that what is important to consumers is control and governance over their own data, not that they are unwilling to share," wrote Gandhi and Wang.