Health tracking hard 'work' for some older, chronically ill patients

Fostering mHealth technology adoption among the older and chronically ill is going to require strategic efforts by developers and device makers, as well as an understanding of why the aging population is likely not to embrace such tools, according to recent research.

The study, which focused on mHealth use among multiple chronic condition patients, reveals such innovation may not be the best approach to personal health management and that barriers may be extremely severe to overcome. It was published this month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

"Developers of consumer health information technologies for data tracking [such as diet and exercise apps or blood glucose logs] often assume patients have unlimited enthusiasm for tracking their own health data via technology," the study's authors say. "However, our findings potentially explain relatively low adoption of consumer HIT, as they suggest that patients with multiple chronic illnesses consider it work to track their own data, that the data can be emotionally charged, and that they may perceive that providers do not welcome it."

Patient opposition to mHealth among the elderly user base has been documented by similar research. As FierceMobileHealthcare recently reported, one solution is for doctors and caregivers to serve as mHealth mentors to patients not comfortable with mobile devices and apps given their age. And a report published in May revealed that while such tools boast tremendous promise to engage patients in healthcare management, strong adoption must include technical support for integration and device management.

The researchers, from Weill Cornell Medical College and Quebec-based Laval University, conducted semi-structured interviews with 22 patients and seven healthcare providers regarding tracking health and medical data. The report concludes four major themes:

  1. Tracking healthcare is viewed as work
  2. Medical data aren't viewed as facts but provoke positive and negative emotions
  3. Patients track data for various purposes
  4. Patients believe doctors trust lab reports over self-tracked data points

"We suggest that to make a public health impact, consumer HIT developers should engage creatively with these pragmatic and emotional issues to reach an audience that is broader than technologically sophisticated early adopters," the authors say. "Novel technologies are likely to be successful only if they clearly reduce patient inconvenience and burden, helping them to accomplish their 'illness work' more efficiently and effectively."

For more information:
- read the report

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