Addicted to your mobile device? It could lead to healthy outcomes

When it comes to consumers' obsessive use of mobile devices to run mHealth apps and get health information, this kind of technology "addiction" might not be a bad thing, so argues Joseph Kvedar, M.D., director of Partners HealthCare's Center for Connected Health, in a recent blog post.

In fact, Kvedar, a member of the FierceHealthIT Advisory Board, believes that we can harness the addictive properties of these devices to make health addictive in the future. 

"As I've done some early research on it, I've discovered that the term addictive is edgy and maybe even too controversial," he writes. "An addiction is something you can't stop.  We've heard about folks who are obsessive about exercising or checking certain vital signs to the point where it is beyond healthy. I don't mean that.  But…if I could make it easy for people to engage in their connected health data and improve their health as they are looking at their smart phone screens 150 times/day, that might make a difference."

Kvedar refers to a "compelling" July 24 National Public Radio story on how technology in general can be addictive. This addiction to technology is based on physiology, according to the NPR piece, because our brains are wired that way. And, as the article points out, while most researchers stop short of calling video games and modern tech addictive, there's evidence that these technologies alter how our brains work and change how we behave.  

"It seems those of us who own smart phones check them obsessively (by some counts 150 times/day)," Kvedar observes. "The reason seems to be that we are seeking either new information or new connections. Looking at that tiny screen is, well, addictive."

That might help explain why a recent U.S. survey found that a quarter of Americans said they trust symptom checker websites, symptom check mobile apps or home-based vital sign monitors as much as they do their doctors. In addition, about an equal proportion (26 percent) often use these resources instead of going to the doctor.

Another recent survey found that 90 percent of patients would accept the offer of a mobile app, while only 66 percent of respondents would accept prescription medicine from their doctor. Those using mobile health technology were pretty evenly distributed across age groups, but they were highly skewed towards women, according to the survey results. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of the mobile health users surveyed were considering switching their treatment.

To learn more:
- read the blog post