Online diagnosers and mobile health

photoxpress_1858376When it comes to looking for health information online, consumers have had fairly consistent behaviors over the past 12 years. A report, Online Health 2013, from The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that of the 81 percent of US adults who use the internet, 72 percent have gone online to look for health information in the past year. Some 59 percent of that online health information seeker group went online to specifically try to figure out what medical condition they or someone they know has. Pew calls this group “online diagnosers” and it includes about 35 percent of all US adults. What does this mean for DTC marketers?

Fully 85% of U.S. adults own a cell phone. Half own smartphones, which expands their mobile internet access and enables mobile software applications. One in three cell phone owners (31%) have used their phone to look for health information. In a comparable, national survey conducted two years ago, 17% of cell phone owners had used their phones to look for health advice. (Source:Pew)

I’m a big believer in treating the whole patient, not just specific conditions via an Rx and for this reason I believe it’s essential that patients get into to see their doctors when they are having medical problems so physicians can observe patient behavior and attitude.

While mobile health is getting a lot of time via online buzz I believe that there is too much hype.


Travis Good says  “The 2013 Gartner report Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies lists “mobile health monitoring” as moving from peak of hype to the trough of disillusionment.  The other major overhyped trends in healthcare are also on the image — big data and cloud computing. Being on the hype cycle and being overhyped isn’t a bad thing and doesn’t mean these technologies won’t be disruptive — it just means they still have some time before they reach widespread adoption. Gartner is predicting that mobile health is 5-10 years from reaching widespread scale.”


Does that mean DTC marketers can ignore mobile health for now? Hardly.  Given how long pharma takes to build the capabilities they should start now and integrate learnings into a better mobile health experience.



Right now there are too many unanswered questions regarding the real ROI of mobile health and its impact on patient outcomes.  We also need to separate health apps (medical) from wellness apps (physical activity, diet) so that we can get detailed insights into how patients are using them.

One thing is for certain.  The integration of mobile technology into patients’ lives is going to happen.  Will DTC marketers be ready ?

mobile health demographics



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  1. Pingback: Nobody Needs the Doctor’s Office : The Buzz Bin

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