Many Americans Want to Manage Their Health Care via Digital Device

Plenty of Americans are eager to use their mobile phones and tablet computers to better manage their health care, a new poll finds.  According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, more than one-third of respondents who are online said they were "very" or "extremely" interested in using smartphones or tablets to ask their doctors questions, make appointments or get medical test results. Doctor

Similar numbers of respondents were eager to use mobile phones and tablets for actual health-care services — such as monitoring blood pressure or blood sugar, or even getting a diagnosis. Such phone and tablet apps are, however, either just getting off the ground or not yet on the market.

The survey results show that the demand for digital assists to health care is "strong and likely to grow," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll.

THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT

Companies are developing a number of apps that, along with equipment attached to your phone or tablet, can help diagnose everything from ear infections and eye diseases to irregular heartbeats and malaria. One goal is to bring better health care to remote parts of the world.

Of course, your doctor has to have the systems in place to do something with that information. And, Schleyer added, depending on where you live, and what health system you're in, that may or may not be the reality.

"This poll shows us that the public is interested in using these apps," Schleyer said. "But the health-care system has to make it easier for them to do it."

OLDER ADULTS COULD BENEFIT MOST FROM THE NEW TECHNOLOGY

Another poll finding was that, not surprisingly, younger adults are more eager to use their smartphones and tablets than older adults. Only one-quarter of people aged 65 and older were very interested in using the devices to help manage their blood pressure, for instance — compared to 38% of younger people.

On one hand, Schleyer noted, older adults could stand to benefit the most from such technology, because they're more likely to have chronic health conditions and need more contact with their doctors.  On the other hand, they may simply not be as comfortable with smartphones and tablets as younger generations are, he said.

Despite the interest in tapping into smartphones and tablets for health care, some poll respondents had some misgivings.  Concerns include:

  • Not wanting e‑mail or text "reminders" to exercise, quit smoking, or take medication, for example.  Many Americans are already inundated with e‑mails and texts.
  • Poll respondents were also worried about the security of their electronically transmitted medical information: 47% were "somewhat confident" it would be secure, while roughly 40% were "not very" or "not at all" confident.
[Source:  "Harris Interactive/Health Day survey."  Harris Interactive.  18 Jun. 2013.  Web.  27 Jun. 2013.]