Consumer Health Technology — 22 November 2012

More and more Americans are not only getting their health information online – they’re increasingly using cell phones and other mobile devices to track or manage their health.

Nearly one in three cell phone owners (31%) use their devices to find health or medical information online, up from 17% just two years ago, according to a nationwide survey sponsored by the Pew Research Center.

Smartphone owners are even more likely to take advantage of mobile technology.  Over half (52%) gather health information on their phones and 19% have at least one health app – with exercise, diet and weight control apps the most popular types.

The results came from a survey of over 3,000 adults conducted this year by researchers from Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

According to the survey, nearly all demographic groups reported significant increases in using their phones to access health information, with the exception of people over 65 and those who did not complete high school.

Eighty-five percent of American adults own a cell phone. Of those, 53% own smartphones.

Among cell phone users, those most likely to use their phones to look for health information were Latinos, African Americans, people between the ages of 18 and 49, college graduates, women, and people with an annual household income between $50,000 and $74,999.

“A person’s likelihood to use their cell phone to look for health information is amplified by each of the characteristics identified,” wrote lead author Susannah Fox.  “Smartphone ownership has greatly increased over the last two years and no doubt had an effect on this trend.”

Health status also played a significant role in how often a person used their cell phone for medical reasons. Caregivers, people who recently faced a medical crisis, and those who experienced a recent change in their physical health were more likely to use their phones to look up health information.

Surprisingly, despite the rise in text messaging, especially among younger cell phone owners, it has not made a significant impact on the health market.

Eighty percent of cell phone owners said they had sent and received text messages, but just 9% said they received any text updates or alerts about health or medical issues. Women and those between the ages of 30‐64 were more likely than others to have signed up for health text alerts.

Women, those under age 50, those better educated, and those with an annual household income over $75,000 were more likely to have downloaded a health app.

But the use of health apps isn’t just limited to researching medical information. There are several apps on the market that help chronic pain sufferers document and manage their symptoms and treatment.

And the information they gather is not only for the patients but also for their health care providers — who get detailed reports about their patients’ conditions.

Several pain management apps are currently available including My Pain Diary, Chronic Pain Tracker, Pain Care and Chronica Pain Management.

Each app offers its own version of how users input data and track it. Some apps are more visual and others offer a “journal like” method to enter and record data. The cost of each varies as well, and most offer a free version to evaluate them.

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About Author

Richard Lenti

Richard Lenti has worked as a news writer for the last 20 years at various television stations in Los Angeles. He is a Golden Mike winner and a graduate of California State University, Fresno. With roots in print journalism, Richard is excited to be “published” once again; having people read his work as opposed to having it read to them. As a freelance writer his work has appeared in the Easy Reader, L.A. Jazz Scene, Irrigation and Green Industry, and the KCAL 9 Online website.

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