How Patients are Using Mobile Apps and Other Technology to Improve Health

February 22, 2012

A growing number of patients tracking their personal health through social networks, PHRs, and self-monitoring devices.

It’s an economically lean world, with physicians and patients facing the reality of increasing medical costs and other challenges that are impeding care. 

The good news is it’s also an increasingly high-tech world, with a growing number of patients tracking their personal health through social networks, PHRs, and self-monitoring devices.

So what is the state of today’s tech-savvy patient?

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist and management consultant with THINK-Health, answered this question and offered data practices can benefit from during her Tuesday afternoon session, “Personal Health IT – How the Emerging Health Citizen Is Adopting Social Networks, Health Monitoring Devices and PHRs,” at the HIMSS12 Conference in Las Vegas.
 
Sarasohn-Kahn pointed to data that reflects that many diseases and negative medical health conditions are connected to lifestyle contributors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, diet, and alcohol use among them.

“We’re dying from non-communicable diseases,” she said.

But there is a silver lining in the fact that a growing number of patients are using tech tools to attempt and change those behaviors. One especially popular tool: mobile apps. According to a January 2011 study by Intuit, the growth of iPhone health apps is projected to reach 13,110 by June 2012. And according to an October 2011 study by the Consumer Electronics Association, the most popular apps are related to food and nutrition, followed by fitness, and personal health records.

However, many patients who attempt to change their health behaviors aren’t successful, regardless of how great mobile apps are.

Sarasohn-Kahn cited a recent Edelman study that showed among 62 percent of people attempted to change health behaviors, only 46 percent sustained a change.

Still, physicians shouldn’t give up on trying to encourage patients to adopt better lifestyle habits.

“When we move care from volume to value, if people are paying more out of pocket, they’re incentivized to change their behavior,” she said.