More robust services, outcomes needed to spur mHealth use

While 30 percent of online consumers would embrace a healthcare data service in exchange for lower healthcare costs, they want more out of the devices than just simple data, according to a new Decisions Resources Group research report.

The Cybercitizen Health survey, conducted by the Manhattan Research Group, also notes 32 percent of the respondents said they are interested in using a wearable device to boost personal health, according to an announcement on the report. 

Overall there is increasing demand for both fitness and health-focused devices because consumers are interested in improving their health; however, robust adoption isn't likely until the devices can provide more than basic services and information, Monique Levy, vice president of research for the Manhattan Research Group, tells FierceMobileHealthcare in a phone interview.

"Right now it is very simplistic data being provided and there will need to be more complex medical insight to wrap it around and provide more value to the user," said Levy, comparing today's initial wearables to the bathroom scale in providing simple data points. The devices will have to be geared toward a specific issue and provide a solution, she says.

As FierceMobileHealthcare has reported, nearly three quarters of U.S. adults are not using fitness devices or apps for tracking diet, weight or exercise, according to a Technology Advice survey. Despite that prediction, some reports expect huge growth for wearables. A recent Mavosky Health/Kelton survey reports 81 percent of Americans say they would use a wearable health device. And an ON World report predicts the devices will create a $50 billion industry with 700 million wearable devices shipped in the global market by 2018.

Such growth, Levy says, will come only as wearables get more sophisticated.

"[A wearable] will need to lead to a tangible outcome, such as a software algorithm that interprets the data and then provides deeper insight" on a specific health issue, she says. Levy said one example is an app that collects data and then recommends a user watch a video regarding a health condition or confer with a health coach.

The study's findings align with projections by healthcare experts published in a high50 article that a "revolution" of health and well-being is underway. "During the next five years, health apps will empower consumers to make improved and informed lifestyle choices leading to better health and reducing the risk of chronic disease," Damon Lightley, managing director at Genetic Apps, told high50.

When it comes to incentives to use mHealth tech, Levy says the incentive could range from a discount on a healthcare plan to reduced co-pay. "It would be relative, it may only take a $10 savings to shift a person's healthcare behavior," she says.

Regarding data security, Levy says the report data illustrates a "vague, nebulous fear" by consumers. About 39 percenet of the survey's respondents said they have privacy concerns about using websites or apps that request to store their personal information.

"They want to control who sees that healthcare data and also be able to shut down that data access," Levy says.

For more information:
- read the report announcement
- check out the webinar on the report's findings

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