Smartphone users prefer texts for health reminders

The largest majority of smartphone users (41 percent) want to receive health reminders via text message, a new study of smartphone users finds. An equal number would choose a message delivered through a smartphone app (20 percent) or via an alarm (19 percent), the data shows. The study of users' preferences concerning health applications, conducted by the Consumer Health Information Corp. in March, covered 395 respondents.

A few other important lessons for hospitals racing to push health apps out to their patients:

Be sure any apps you provide (or recommend) are vetted and useful before deploying. The study shows that ease-of-use is the top reason for users to ditch a health app. That means developers, and healthcare providers alike, should test out apps before providing them to the public, says Richard Meyers of Pharma Marketer. "You need to test the application with your audience and get their input into development. This is not the standard procedure for app developers. They usually release apps and if changes are needed, they include them in subsequent releases," he says.

As part of your due diligence, also keep an eye on consumer app review websites. More than 88 percent of users said they were either "somewhat" or "very much" influenced by consumer app ratings.

Start a continuous development program for apps. Applications need to be updated regularly to keep patient loyalty. The most common reason survey respondents stopped using an app was because they "found a better one." The message to healthcare providers should be clear--that apps need continuous attention, Meyers says. He specifically recommends providers develop "strategic alliances" with app vendors who can "develop and update your apps for the long term."

Don't push multi-message apps. Only 40 percent of respondents indicated they'd be willing to use a health app multiple times per day.

Keep apps cheap. Nearly 35 percent of respondents wanted apps to be free, and 31 percent indicated they would only pay between  $1 and $5.99 for a health app.

Warning: One particularly interesting data point on patient app preferences may put you on a collision course with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nearly 80 percent of users want apps that "analyze the information you're logging and give you feedback as to how you're doing." Unfortunately, the FDA's emerging rules on smartphone apps indicate that the agency is most likely to control apps that provide health analysis and guidance.

To learn more:
- read analysis at Pharma Marketer
- check out the CHIC press release