Statistics on mobile health mean little

Unknown-1“Nobody has figured out how to make consumers — patients — care about mobile health technologies. “And if we don’t [figure that out], m-health will be another tech bubble”. Dr. Joseph Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health.

Surveys have found that half who use mobile fitness trackers to keep tabs on their workouts or diets stop using the programs within six months,” said a recent Los Angeles Times story on smartphones in healthcare.  All these wearable and mobile products, touted as “disruptive,” “revolutionary” or “groundbreaking” by so many vendors and Silicon Valley cheerleaders still haven’t proved value to healthcare providers or large number of consumers.


A number of recent studies have identified [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@richmeyer” suffix=””]medical apps that failed to measure up[/inlinetweet].  In 2011, pharma giant Pfizer recalled a rheumatology calculator app after the company found that its swollen-joint measurements—calculated using self-reported data—were off by as much as half. Even most simple pedometer apps don’t count your steps correctly, a 2012 study found. For a 2013 paper, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tested four skin cancer diagnosis apps—similar to the one Hudak used on her kids—and three of them missed at least 1 in 3 melanomas.

So let’s look at some of the hypeI mean stats around mobile health..

  • Close to 75 percent of adults do not use a fitness device or app to track their weight, diet, or exercise, according to a survey of 979 US adults conducted by research firm Technology Advice.
  • 86 percent of the general population going online for health, half are mobile health users. Two thirds of people doing online searches use social media to seek health information, and one third communicate with doctors. (Manhattan Research)
  • [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@richmeyer” suffix=””]About 20 percent of patients say that mobile is essential[/inlinetweet] for managing their care, the article said. That holds true for 32 percent of people with diabetes, and 39 percent of people with MS, according to the article.
  • More Millennials (56%) than those 66 and older (45%) said they would be motivated by data showing the medication was more effective, or by fewer side effects (55% vs. 43%), while more people 66 and older (49%) than Millennials (43%) would be motivated by the recommendation of a healthcare professional.

Now what does all this mean?  Nada. Zilch. Zero.  Statistics don’t mean a thing until we understand why consumers are accessing mobile health and where.  Is it, for example, after being exposed to a DTC spot?  A symptom? A doctor’s recommendation?  The truth is that it varies by each disease state, and medication.  If you believe that someone is going to a website because they are bored you need to stop drinking.


What’s a DTC Marketer to do?

1ne: Analyze web analytics to determine percent of traffic from mobile, including platforms.

2wo: Find out, via testing and research, where and why people are accessing your site on mobile.

3hree: Provide the best mobile experience where and why your audience is accessing your site.

4our: Don’t fall into the “app” trap.  It’s costly and won’t provide any good to patients unless you test it with your audience and continually have a budget to upgrade/update it.

Mobile devices may cannibalize any desktop-based big screen Internet usage, but, for most companies, not a whole lot. Mostly, they’ll just increase overall usage. And they will enable consumers to interact with their favorite digital brands and services for all of their waking hours instead of just their hours at work.


These “mobile” users, moreover, won’t want to interact with their favorite brands and services ONLY on mobile, or even necessarily MOSTLY on mobile (It depends on the service: Mobile music, for example, is huge, as are some mobile games). They’ll want to interact with them everywhere.

Citing data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the Washington Post breaks it down: While 88% of Americans have a cell phone, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@richmeyer” suffix=””]only 10% have downloaded health-related mobile apps[/inlinetweet].