I just love it when two interests of mine coincide–and I don’t even have to read an advanced ‘Results’ section of a paper [remember: it's all okay if p is greater than 0.05, right?] to get to the crux of an issue.
I’m a softie for infographics [you might have noticed], with a strong interest in the facts of mobile health, and, on a day when my stars aligned, I came across both, in one fell swoop.
The Business to Community website published a well-done infographic on mobile health in smartphones, something I take quite seriously not just in theory, but every time I turn on my iBiker app for a walk of any length. [I want credit for that 3-minute saunter to the bus stop! Don't try to tell me it's not exercise.]
While I’m not totally drinking the Kool-aid when it comes to the belief that health apps are changing our lives as a society as radically as this infographic portrays, I am impressed by the way we can use our smartphones to combat PTSD, cease smoking, track our moods, and record our running highs and lows [not my running highs and lows, particularly, as that would require my running. I just meant 'our' as in 'there are some people who think running is fun and why shouldn't they get their jollies watching their improvements, while I eat chips on the couch?'].
See what you think.
There were some surprises for me in the above, though. For example, could it really be true that only 18% of 30-49-year-olds use their phone to research health information? I mean, aside from Words With Friends and e-mail, what are people doing with their phones if not looking this stuff up? How much time can you spend shopping? [That's a rhetorical question.]
And I know from my sources [I could tell you but I'd have to kill you] that the picture isn’t all rosy. While it may be true that 247 million people downloaded health apps this year, people don’t seem to be making the best use of them–like, say, using them at all.
According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, half of adult cell phone owners have apps on their phones, but only 68% reported using them [which really is the first chink in the armor, I'd say]. That translates into [Pew did the math for me, so it should be good] 35% of U.S. adults having apps on their phone, with 24% using them.
And to make matters worse, that applies to all apps. But when it comes to health apps, they appear to be losing the popularity contest, according to Pew, falling far behind apps that provides updates on news, apps about a destination you plan to visit, apps that help you shop [that's obvious, of course]–basically most other kinds of apps. [Note that, in small print on the infographic, the prediction is that 30% of smartphone users will use wellness apps by 2015. That's fairly underwhelming.]
Additionally, World of DTC Marketing.com found that a full quarter of people who downloaded a health app never got around to using it–and over 50% deleted the app after 2 months. That would really be another serious chink in the armor, I’d say.
But I found the stats about savings for seniors, and about greater access to doctors for rural patients inspiring.
And I fail to be scared off by the FDA numbers, as overwhelming (and true) as it is that it can take 6-20 months and $25-75 million dollars to get a medical device approved.
The number of apps that fall under the ‘medical device’ category is really quite small–and probably should be regulated. An app that directs my surgeon how to operate on my ovaries (there’s an app for that!) should really have some oversight. Imagining a young app developer thinking of ways to make it more ‘fun’, without someone taking a look, fails to inspire complete confidence.
I can feel secure that my wellness apps that track my headaches, chart my period, and record how many footsteps I take (not enough) don’t interest the FDA particularly.
Well, come to think it, I haven’t really used the pedometer in quite some time. I think I’ll join the majority of people who just delete these apps. I could use the room on my phone–for some more news updates, or perhaps another shopping app. . . .