Study: Six in 10 Patients Have Shared Medical Information via Mobile Device

Sept. 15, 2016
One in four patients in the U.S. have emailed or texted a photo of a medical issue to a physician, according to survey findings from San Francisco-based Ketchum Global Research & Analytics.

One in four patients in the U.S. have emailed or texted a photo of a medical issue to a physician, according to survey findings from San Francisco-based Ketchum Global Research & Analytics.

Ketchum conducted an online survey of 2,000 respondents who own a smartphone in April 2016 for its Ketchum mHealth Monitor, which maps adoption of wearable technology, app and artificial intelligence for personal health and wellness.

Of those respondents, more than half (58 percent) with smartphones have shared medical information with a medical professional via the Internet on their smartphone, mobile app or wearable device.

The study findings also indicate that Americans are managing their health on their own from their smartphones or fitness trackers. Almost half (47 percent) of respondents have an app that tracks fitness, working out, health or medicine. In addition, 83 percent of people who use fitness or workout apps use them at least once a week.

“This study points to a shift in people’s attitudes and readiness to use technology to manage their health,” Lisa Sullivan, executive vice president and North American technology practice leader for Ketchum, said in a prepared statement. “With U.S. smartphone adoption at 68 percent, now is the time for businesses that have a stake in the healthcare industry to push to develop approachable, intuitive mobile tech offerings that help the ever-increasing mobile user population improve something as personal and important as their health.”

The study also evaluated the emerging use of artificial intelligence, A.I., for health and wellness. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they were comfortable using A.I. Although 32 percent said they are likely to use an A.I. search tool, like Siri, only 9 percent would use an artificially intelligent therapist, the study findings indicated.

“In addition to improving patient experiences, mHealth technology also has the potential to help offset some of the rising costs of healthcare,” Sullivan said. “Studies have shown correlations between leveraging mobile apps for patients with chronic diseases and cost savings, so the power of mHealth can truly be quantified in a way that makes sense for a company’s bottom line.”

Ketchum’s survey results also uncovered other findings that reveal a few speed bumps and opportunities for businesses engaging on health. Nearly a quarter (21 percent) of respondents have stopped using certain health and fitness tracking apps.

Although the majority of Americans said they have used technology to interact with a medical professional, most (63 percent) said they still prefer face-to-face interaction with their healthcare providers.

“Nearly one-third (32 percent) said they are likely to use an A.I. search tool and 31 percent an A.I. health tracker, but they aren’t too convinced about using an A.I. medical adviser (18 percent) or an artificially intelligent therapist (9 percent),” the study authors wrote.

As part of the study, Ketchum researchers also identified five types of mHealth users, segmented by current attitudes toward mHealth, health behaviors and overall mobile/technology adoption.

Ketchum researchers identified some mHealth users as “discerning digitals,” who are super users who want to be constantly connected, but may also struggle with feeling too available. They are advocates of mHealth but still like face-to-face contact with medical professionals. Some mHealth users could fall into the category of “swayable seekers,” a group that wants to expand their smartphone repertoire beyond just making calls. “They feel confident about managing their health and get a lot of their medical info online. The majority feel like they have a lot to learn about using mobile tech for their health,” the study authors wrote.

According to Ketchum, a third group was identified ashealth tech hesitators,” a group that admits they don’t manage their health very well and aren’t happy with their physical well-being, and they’re not exactly comfortable sharing information online either.

In addition, there is a group called “app-athetic agnostics,” who like mobile technology but many just don’t use any type of mHealth, nor do they care to in the next year.

Finally, Ketchum identified a fifth group as “low-tech lifers,” or traditionalists who don’t think mHealth has had a positive impact on their lives, nor do they foresee it having a positive impact in the future. 

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