Monday, May 9, 2011

Smartphones for Health? A survey

Last month, Consumer Health Information Corporation released the results of a survey of 395 smartphone consumers. It was a good first effort to dig into a very murky, but important question: how will folks use their smartphones to manage their own health? 

They reported a number of findings:

  • 74% of smartphone apps are abandoned by the user before they use it 10 times.
  • Most health apps do not comply with public health guidelines.
  • In spite of these failings, most consumers were willing to pay a few dollars for the app.
  • Respondents preferred text messages over other methods of getting health reminders.
This last finding is a bit problematic. Apparently the survey included only electronic methods of communication (phone calls, e-mails, app messages, etc.). However, none of these methods has ever been shown to improve health outcomes or lower costs. On the other hand, personalized first class mail is quite effective and has been proven in large scale clinical trials to change patient behavior for the better.

I guess that's what happens when you survey cell phone users on Facebook - they tell you they like using cell phones! But whether health apps will truly change our health awaits a more rigorous evaluation, including a large randomized clinical trial.

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