Mobile Health Continues to Grow in Popularity, iPhone Tops List of Devices Used to Seek Medical Info

Eighty five percent of U.S. adults own a cell phone, and 31% of them have used their phone to look for health information, according to The Pew Internet & American Life Project, in conjunction with Princeton Survey Research. Two years ago, only 17% of cell phone owners had used their phones to look for health advice. app

Smartphone owners lead this activity: 52% gather health information on their phones, compared with 6% of non-​smartphone owners. Cell phone owners who are Latino, African American, between the ages of 18–49, or hold a college degree are also more likely to gather health information this way.

80% of cell phone owners say they send and receive text messages, but just 9% of cell phone owners say they receive any text updates or alerts about health or medical issues. Women, those between the ages of 30 and 64, and smartphone owners are more likely than other cell phone owners to have signed up for health text alerts.


Smartphones enable the use of mobile software applications to help people track or manage their health. Some 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. Exercise, diet, and weight apps are the most popular types. Mobile health continues to climb in popularity, especially among smartphone owners.

Mobile health information also seems to appeal to certain groups of health consumers: caregivers, people who went through a recent medical crisis, and those who experienced a recent, significant change in their physical health such as gaining or losing a lot of weight, becoming pregnant, or quitting smoking.


Among all cell phone owners, some demographic groups are more likely than others to look for health information on their phones: Latinos, African Americans, those between the ages of 18 and 49, and college graduates.

Nearly all demographic groups report significant increases in this activity, with the exception of those over 65 and those who did not complete high school. A few groups stand out: cell phone owners who are African American, college graduates, women, those with an annual household income between $50,000 and $74,999, and those between the ages of 30–49. Smartphone ownership has greatly increased over the last two years and no doubt had an effect on this trend.


Another study looking at mobile behavior — The Patient's Guide — reports
that consumers using their iPhone to gather medical information has increased 94% from 2011 to 2012. The iPhone also topped the list of mobile devices used to seek medical information online with an overwhelming 41% of total mobile traffic for 2012. Based on these trends, Jasson Gilmore, CEO and Co-​founder of The Patient’s Guide predicts, “By 2014 the iPhone will surpass the desktop as the primary device for health information.”

A number of factors may continue to influence this trend, including government regulations and insurance reimbursements, as well as the evolution of mobile computing devices such as the new iPad mini. Mr. Gilmore expects the trend to continue, “I would anticipate mobile devices become the top device consumers will use to research health information by the end of next year. As health providers and institutions evaluate cost-​saving measures, I think broader adoption of such devices may help in this effort in the same way electronic medical records have.”

[Source:  "Pew Internet/​CHCF Health Survey."  The Pew Internet & American Life Project/​Princeton Survey Research.  8 Nov. 2012.  Web.  6 Dec. 2012; Study by The Patient's Guide.  4 Dec. 2012.  Web.  6 Dec. 2012.]