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Mobile health gaining popularity

US study finds smartphone users lead the way

mHealth mobile phone 

Patients and the public are increasingly turning to their mobile phones to find health information, according to a new US study.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project's Mobile Health 2012 report found that nearly a third of mobile phone owners (31 per cent) have used their phone to look for health information, up from 17 per cent in 2010.

The survey, which involved more than 3,000 people living in the US, also found that smartphone users are leading the mHealth charge, with 52 per cent gathering healthcare information compared to 6 per cent of 'feature phone' users.

Overall, mobile phone owners who are Latino, African American, between the ages of 18-49, or hold a college degree were more likely to turn to their phones for health information.

Pew also found that health status also plays a role in whether people use their mobile phones for health information.

Caregivers, those who recently faced a medical crisis, and those who experienced a recent, significant change in their physical health are more likely than other mobile phone owners to use their phones to look for health information.

Text messages underused

The survey found 85 per cent of US adults own a mobile phone and, of those that do, 53 per cent own smartphones.

But while text messaging was almost a universal activity, its uptake for health remains limited. Some 80 per cent of mobile phone owners send and receive text messages, but just 9 per cent receive text updates or alerts about health or medical issues.

Women, people between the ages of 30 and 64, and smartphone owners are more likely than other cell phone owners to have signed up for health text alerts.

Pew surveyed 3,014 adults living in the US, carrying out telephone interviews between August and September 2012.

Smartphone health apps

In a separate survey carried out earlier this year, Pew tracked health apps and found that 19 per cent of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone, with exercise, diet, and weight apps the most popular. This compares to 84 per cent who had downloaded an app of any kind.

Women, people under the age of 50, people with a better education, and people with an annual household income more than $75,000 are more likely to have downloaded a health app.

19th November 2012

From: Sales, Marketing, Healthcare

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