04:14 PM

Mobile Health App Users Want Intelligent, Interactive Features

For mobile health tools to be useful in improving patient adherence, they need to rely on evidence-based guidelines and be cheap, according to a study by the Consumer Health Information Corporation.

12 Innovative Mobile Healthcare Apps
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Slideshow: 12 Innovative Mobile Healthcare Apps
More than 90% of mobile health apps users said that retrieving information from a health app is the number one reason for using such a tool, according to a study by the Consumer Health Information Corporation (CHIC).

More specifically, the study showed that 58% of respondents said they wanted to use a health app to help manage disease or medications and 48% said they want to use the software to keep track of health information.

Among the features that respondents felt would encourage greater use of health apps, the vast majority (80%) said they would be more likely to use an interactive app that can analyze logged information and provide feedback.

CHIC said it relied on interviews with 395 people to gauge consumer interest in health apps and evaluate the likelihood of patient adherence to them. The survey, conducted in March, was distributed to smartphone users at affiliated universities and businesses.

According to CHIC, for health apps to be successful patient adherence tools, they should follow established evidence-based guidelines.

The CHIC survey also found that:

-- Respondents were most likely to use a health app to find information about drugs (42%) or disease states (26%).

-- Forty percent were willing to use such a health app several times a day.

-- National health organizations were the most trusted source of health information (52%).

-- The majority of respondents were either somewhat influenced by (56%) or very much influenced (32%) by consumer ratings of apps.

-- Thirty three percent of consumers preferred free health apps, but the majority were willing to pay, with 31% willing to pay between $1.00 and $5.99.

-- In terms of preference for health-related task reminders, respondents did not want phone calls, drug vials, or email reminders. The majority said they preferred reminders through mobile phone text messages (41%), smartphone apps (20%), or phone alarms (19%).

In its assessment of the results, CHIC said patients will not use a smartphone app simply because it is innovative or handy. Instead, patients are looking for a convenient health app that simplifies their health-related tasks. Furthermore, patients also desire feedback--it is not enough to have a health app that merely helps to manage or keep track of one's health. Such an app should also be accurate and follow clinical and behavior modification guidelines, the organization said.

Like other apps developers, those developing health app are challenged to keep users interested in using their software. Generally, 26% of apps are downloaded and used only once. Of the people who confirm using their apps, 74% drop out by the 10th use. The same survey, however, also shows that 26% of smartphone applications retain consumer loyalty and are used repeatedly.

The availability of a better app (34%) and lack of user friendliness (33%) are the top reasons for discontinuation of smartphone apps.

The high dropout rate with smartphone apps is concerning to the healthcare industry because smartphone apps are beginning to play an important role in healthcare.

The most recent pharmaceutical industry report by Ernst & Young from February 2011 revealed that new initiatives in health technology by pharmaceutical companies increased by 78% in 2010. Forty one percent of those new initiatives were smartphone apps. For the time and resources invested, pharmaceutical companies need to ensure that their investments in smartphone apps do not fall into the 26% that are used only once, but rather into the 26% that are used repeatedly, CHIC concluded.

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