The number of technical tools available to help patients live healthy lifestyles or control chronic health conditions has grown considerably during the past few years. But the percentage of patients who use some form of technology, such as mobile apps, to track health indicators has remained virtually unchanged for three years.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project published a report Jan. 28 that found 69% of U.S. adults track at least one health indicator such as diet, exercise or weight. The survey of 3,014 adults conducted between Aug. 7 and Sept. 6, 2012, found that 49% monitor their progress in their heads, 34% track the information on paper, and 21% utilize some form of technology, including mobile apps, which 7% use. The results mirror findings from a Pew survey in 2010.
“As a tech industry thought leader, I’m disappointed when I see a survey like that,” said Bill Crounse, MD, senior director of worldwide health at Microsoft Corp. “But as somebody who has served as a physician and was involved in patient care for 20 years … I’m not particularly surprised.”
Dr. Crounse said most people have an idea of what they weigh because they occasionally step on a scale. But a much smaller population would write that number down, enter it into a patient portal or document it through a mobile app.
For years physicians have asked patients to track some aspect of their health, whether it be weight, diet, headache frequency or blood pressure, said Aaron Michelfelder, MD, vice chair and professor in the Dept. of Family Medicine at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “And, honestly, it’s only about one in five patients that will do that anyway,” he said. “So even before apps were available, we got a low return rate on asking patients to track their data.”
But many remain optimistic that mobile health monitoring will be an important aspect of health care.
“I don’t see this as a plateau, but the very beginning,” said Michael Esquivel, a health information technology attorney and partner at Fenwick & West in Mountain View, Calif.
Dr. Crounse said “the triple aim” of health care reform — raising the quality of care, improving access to care and lowering the cost of care — will play a significant role in the growth of mobile health.
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