Guest post by Chris Boone, CEO, Health Data Consortium.
Consumers are receiving more health data than ever, as evidenced by the myriad mobile apps (WeightWatchers, Mindshift, Nike+ Training Club, etc.) and wearables (FitBit, iWatch, Jawbone, etc.) now available. With health data so pervasive, health literacy has become a commonly discussed issue as it pertains to consumers’ ability to obtain and process healthcare information to make better healthcare decisions. But, with the advent of so much data, there must be a national emphasis on the importance of health data literacy, as well, to empower patients to leverage available data in a meaningful way that can improve their and their loved ones’ health outcomes.
The Health Data Literacy Landscape
There remain challenges to the health data movement – such as privacy concerns – and as a result, questions around how to improve health data literacy remain largely unexplored. The road to health data literacy starts with digital access to health information, and new technologies that seamlessly augment consumers’ daily health practices to enable better health decision-making. Interestingly enough, however, the rate at which health data entrepreneurs and innovators are producing incredible technologies may be exceeding the rate at which consumers are able to digest and use the information.
So, how do we leverage the opportunities provided by greater access to health data without overwhelming the consumer?
Data Visualization and the User Experience
Once data becomes accessible to consumers, data visualization is a key component to ensuring it is understandable and actionable. Consumers must be able to comprehend and digest data to put it to work.
In addition – and like in any other industry – the user experience must be a top priority when building new technologies. We need developers to build mobile apps, wearables, websites, etc. that are simple in design with an emphasis on providing useful and easily actionable data for consumers.
A recent study by mobile engagement provider Mobiquity, Inc has found that while 70 percent of people use mobile apps on a daily basis to track calorie intake and monitor physical activities, only 40 percent share data and insights with their doctors.
Working with an independent research firm, Mobiquity’s “Get Mobile, Get Healthy: The Appification of Health & Fitness” study reveals the opportunity for healthcare professionals and organizations to leverage mobile to drive positive behavior change and healthier patient outcomes. According to the survey, 34 percent of mobile health and fitness app users said they would increase their use of apps if their doctors actively recommended it.
According to Mobiquity’s research,73 percent of people claim to be healthier by using a smartphone and apps to track their health and fitness. Fifty three percent discovered they were eating more calories than they realized. Sixty-three percent intend to continue, and even increase, their mobile health tracking in the next five years; 55 percent of today’s mobile health app users also plan to introduce wearable devices like pedometers, wristbands and smartwatches to their health monitoring in coming years.
Smartphone health tracking trumps social networking
For many, using a smartphone to track their health and fitness is more important to them than using their phone for social networking (69 percent), mobile shopping (68 percent), listening to music (60 percent) and making/receiving phone calls (30 percent).
But there’s room for improvement
What’s stopping people from using their health and fitness apps more? Doctor recommendations would be a big motivator, said 34 percent. Privacy was also a concern for 61 percent. But the chief reason people quit using these apps is simply because they forget – something that could and should be addressed by app developers to ensure health apps are less disposable.
“Our study shows there’s a huge opportunity for medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies and health organizations to use mobile to drive positive behavior change and, as a result, better patient outcomes,” said Scott Snyder, president and chief strategy officer at Mobiquity. “The gap will be closed by those who design mobile health solutions that are indispensable and laser-focused on users’ goals, and that carefully balance data collection with user control and privacy.”
Mobiquity commissioned independent research firm Research Now to survey 1,000 consumers who use, or plan to use, health and fitness mobile apps. The study was conducted between March 5-11, 2014.