IBM reveals untapped mobile users of the future

There's a huge group of mobile users that you may be overlooking as you develop your hospital's mobile strategy. They're "information seekers," and they will be the largest cohort of mobile healthcare consumers in the future, according to a new report by IBM, "The Future of Connected Health Devices."

Traditional mHealth users are a small percentage of highly motivated individuals with significant fitness goals or debilitating chronic conditions. Both groups are willing to put in the time to learn and use smartphone apps, remote monitoring devices and other mobile health products, IBM's researchers found in their study of more than 1,300 mobile health device users.

A far larger, but trickier-to-engage, group consists of "information seekers," according to the study. These users may have one chronic condition, such as obesity or smoking, that doesn't immediately threaten their health, but that they want help managing.

"People want to take a more active role in managing their healthcare--both to reduce costs and improve their quality of life," Katherine Holland, general manager, IBM Life Sciences said in a press release. "Device makers have a great opportunity to fulfill this need--but to be successful, they must partner to ensure they have the blend of skills, consumer understanding and healthcare expertise."

Here are just a few of the devices that information seekers will want in their healthcare treatments in the future, IBM officials posit:

  • Assertive fitness/wellness apps: Existing fitness apps track and monitor activity levels, but the future lies in engaging users to move more, and leveraging social networks to motivate them to do so, IBM officials say. Some might even report on lack of compliance to a friend or designated individual, to nudge users out of their chairs.
  • Location/mobility trackers: Devices that determine where the patient is and whether he or she has left an approved area will become standard of care for dementia patients. For patients with mobility problems, devices will check movement levels regularly to determine if the patient is having problems. They also will provide prompts for exercise and activities to help patients maintain flexibility and mobility.
  • Continuous blood monitoring: Wireless wristband units will perofrm non-invasive blood-tests and alert the patient (and doctor) to any out-of-parameter findings, such as white blood cell counts increasing. "Users will know when to modify their medications, or seek medical attention," IBM officials said in a press release.

But just creating, or adopting, an innovative mobile device won't be enough for this user segment, the survey shows. Respondents say they require ease of use (96 percent) and real-time, interactive feedback and data sharing (86 percent).

Consumers say they're willing to pay for an mHealth device they deem useful. In fact, while only 10 percent of respondents are paying out-of-pocket for their devices now, more than 30 percent say they expect to do the same within the next two years. The catch? The price point has to stay under $100, according to more than 80 percent of respondents.

To learn more:
- check out the report (.pdf)
- read IBM's press release