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Rock Health on Digital Health Use

By November 10, 2015Commentary

Rock Health provides help to startups in the health care industry.  It released results of a survey of 4000 consumers regarding adoption of digital health capabilities, the demographic and attitudinal drivers of adoption and concerns about data privacy and data sharing.  (Rock Health Report)   The survey asked about six categories of digital health:  online health information use; online health reviews; mobile health tracking; wearable health or wellness devices; genetic services and telemedicine.  20% of respondents have used none of these, 28% just one, 32% two of them, and only 8% have used 4 or more.  High users are much more like to have a smartphone and are somewhat younger than non-adopters.  Interestingly, they also tend to have more health problems, belying a stereotype that younger, healthier individuals are predominant users of technology.  Searching for health information is the most used category, with about 60% looking for information on drugs or on their symptoms, and 50% on treatment options.  About a third to 40% of those searching act on the information they find.  Compared to other information sources, however, online sources are not highly trusted.  A person’s own physician is the most trusted data source, any other physician comes next and others are down the list.  About 44% of respondents looked for a review of a physician and 33% of a hospital before seeking services.  Quality data is what most people are looking for; price is largely irrelevant.  In terms of health tracking, a minority of people do this in their heads or on paper.  8% say they currently track weight in a digital health app, 12% track blood pressure, 12% track physical activity, 7% track food/diet and a few track other factors.  About 12% of people are using a wearable.  Most have purchased them intending to use it to encourage themselves to engage in more exercise or have a better diet and lose weight or get better sleep.  Recently people with poorer health status have begun to be a larger sharer of purchasers of wearables.  Not sure how genetic services get turned into digital health, but respondents report low usage of these services, 7%, with most people apparently not yet that interested in understanding their genetic risk for health issues.  Telemedicine is most highly used by middle-aged adults, who have high rates of satisfaction with various forms of virtual visits.  Telephone is listed as the most preferred medium across all respondents, but for actual telemedicine users of video, that becomes the preferred virtual visit method.  Consumers feel strongly that they must have control of their health data, but are most willing to share it to help get better care and to aid in medical research.  As is usually the case, much higher numbers of consumers say they are interested in using digital health, than actually do so today.  Whether their adoption picks up and persists is yet an open question.

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