Few use technology to track health despite growth of self-management tool industry

Seven in 10 U.S. adults track health indicators, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project--but few are using technology to do so.

In the survey, 21 percent say they use a spreadsheet, website, app, or device to track weight, diet, exercise routine, symptoms or other health indicator. Those with one or more chronic conditions were more likely to do so.

Twenty-two percent of those with two or more chronic conditions who track say they use a medical device, such as a glucometer, compared with 7 percent of trackers with one condition and 2 percent of trackers who report no chronic conditions.

One-third of adults say they track conditions such as blood pressure, blood sugar, headaches or sleep patterns. In all, 46 percent of trackers say that doing so has changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone for whom they provide care.

About half those who track conditions do so "in their head," the survey found. More than 3,000 adults participated in the survey.

Despite the lack of adoption, the number of companies producing self-management tools has grown by 35 percent in the past year to 500, with nearly 13,000 health and fitness apps available, according to the database of Health 2.0, a market intelligence project. Matthew Holt, co-chairman of Health 2.0, told the New York Times that venture capital for health-tracking tools grew by 20 percent from January through September 2012, based on "perceived increase in consumer interest in wellness and tracking in general, and the expectation that at-home monitoring of all types of patients will be a bigger deal under the new accountable care organizations."

Approximately 2.8 million patients worldwide used home-based remote monitoring services from dedicated devices in 2012, according to research from analyst firm Berg Insight, which expects continued growth.

Previous Pew research has found that more than half of smartphone owners get health information on the devices, and one-fifth of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. By 2016, more than 3 million patients will be using remote monitoring devices that transmit data using their smartphones, Juniper Research predicts.  

To learn more:
- here's the survey report
- read the Times article


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