Patients don't want to pay for remote health monitoring

Old habits--and mindsets--die hard. The attitude of American consumers toward remote health monitoring devices is the same as it is for all kinds of other healthcare products and services: I want it, but I don't want to pay for it.

According to a new survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers, 40 percent of U.S. consumers would be interested in purchasing or leasing a device to monitor various bits of health information like blood pressure or heart rate then automatically send data to their doctors. A similar number--41 percent--said the same about mobile phone applications that would allow them to track health information or remind them to take some action such as taking a medication or refilling a prescription.

Of the 2,000 adults surveyed, 56 percent said they like the idea of remote healthcare services, and 41 percent indicated a willingness to have more care delivered by mobile device.

But many people draw the line on price. Among those willing to buy a remote monitoring device, 64 percent would do so only if it cost them less than $50. For those interested in subscribing to a mobile phone-based service to manage their own health, 47 percent set an upper limit of $5 per month, according to PwC, which unveiled the survey results at the mHealth Initiative networking conference in San Diego last week. Though this story has been reported in many news outlets, FierceMobileHealthcare was the only publication to have a reporter present for the announcement.

Christopher Wasden, managing director of PwC's Strategy & Innovation Practice, said the fact that 40 percent would pay anything was a positive development, given that "mobile health is an abstract idea" for consumers. He pegs the market at a minimum of $7.7 billion. "But it could be $43 billion if employers got involved" to cover such monitoring services. However, Wasden said, "We think it's a mistake to wait for employers and payers to start paying for this stuff."

Others weren't so upbeat about the findings. "I pay $18 a month for OnStar to manage the health of my car," said an incredulous John Maschenic, director of healthcare solutions for Verizon Wireless. "But people aren't willing to pay more than [$5 a month] to manage their own health information?"

According to Wasden, the way to overcome this resistance is to put patients--consumers--in a retail rather than a clinical environment. People will have a desire to purchase monitoring technology if they see it in a retail store rather than get a recommendation from a doctor. "They don't expect insurance to cover it" in the consumer world, Wasden said.

The results were more positive on the physician side. Among 1,000 physicians surveyed, 88 percent said they would like for their patients to be able to monitor their own health at home, while 57 percent said they would like to monitor their patients outside of a hospital with mobile and wireless technologies. But many worry about being overwhelmed with data not directly relevant to their patients' care.

For further details:
- see this PricewaterhouseCoopers press release
- download the report
- check out this story on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog
- read this Marketing Charts story