Who’s Using mHealth? Study Says Healthier, Younger People

There are a plethora of mHealth devices and apps available today, ranging from fitness trackers to mobile apps that provide advice to new parents to devices designed to help diabetes patients self-monitor. But who’s actually utilizing these technologies—and are they helping improve the health of people who need it most? As mHealth Intelligence first reported, a new study from Canadian researchers suggests that the people taking advantage of mHealth overwhelmingly tend to be younger, healthier, and doing well financially—but the authors see potential for their use with a broader population for health improvement. “The results of the study show an opportunity to advance the health of Canadians through mobile apps and smart devices; and highlight important nuances to better understand key market segments and opportunities,” the authors, whose study was supported by the government-funded nonprofit Canadian Health Infoway, note in their report.

The study, which involved a survey of more than 4,000 Canadians, found that nearly a third (32 percent) of adults in the country had recently used mobile apps for health monitoring purposes. Similarly, 24 percent reported owning at least one “smart” device. And of those who said that they regularly tracked their health using the devices, respondents tended to be young and fairly well off: 41 percent were younger adults, 59 percent were employed, 55 percent had a university education, and 46 percent had an annual household income of more than $80,000. Similarly, they also tended to be in good health, with only 28 percent of frequent users either reporting a chronic health condition or classifying their health status as “fair/poor.” Conclude the authors, “The use of mobile health apps is mainly the result of motivations tied to well-being rather than any motivations directly related to health problems.”

As we’ve previously noted, U.S.-based providers are well aware of the barriers that exist when it comes to using mHealth with more vulnerable populations—i.e., those with chronic conditions and Medicaid patients. In a Medical News Today piece from earlier this year, for example, providers interviewed saw potential in the adoption of mHealth, remote monitoring, and wearable devices for patients with chronic disease, but reported that they were still attempting to overcome issues related to patient access. “Those individuals that are in most need of these services are often the least likely to have the resources necessary to take full advantage of these programs,” Dr. Judith Marcin, a family physician, told the publication at the time. What’s more, there have been some recent efforts to design telehealth and mHealth interventions that specifically target underserved patients. For example, the CHRONIC Care Act, which unanimously passed the Senate Finance Committee this summer and is slated to receive a full Senate vote at some point, includes provisions that support the expanded use of telehealth and remote monitoring for Medicare patients with chronic conditions.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the Canadian Health Infoway mHealth study.

Click here to read the Canadian Health Infoway mHealth study report.

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