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Almost one-third of Americans would use mobile phone health apps

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | September 09, 2010
People are willing to pay for health apps.
All the hype for mobile phones’ potentially transformative role in health care seems to have gotten through to the public.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey released Wednesday found that one-third of Americans would be willing to use their cell phone to track health information, and about 40 percent said they'd pay for a mobile phone app that let them refill prescriptions, provided access to health records or nagged them to take their meds. A similar number said they would pay a monthly subscription fee for a product that sent critical health information, like blood sugar levels and heart rate, to their doctor.

"Remote and mobile technology is making it possible to move health care delivery outside the traditional settings of physician offices and hospitals to wherever patients are," PricewaterhouseCoopers' health information technology expert Daniel Garrett said in prepared remarks. "It's bringing back the concept of doctors making house calls."
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The findings come from the consulting business' Health Research Institute and were presented at the mHealth Initiative 2nd International mHealth Conference in San Diego.

The online survey, which polled 2,000 consumers and 1,000 physicians this summer, also found that men were twice as likely as women to want electronic health reminders.

As for doctors, around 88 percent want patients to be able monitor their vital signs at home, and around 57 percent said they would also like to monitor patients outside the hospital. However, the doctors said they wanted the information filtered so they wouldn't be overwhelmed by it.

Doctors also said they could cut the number of office visits by 11 to 30 percent if they could use remote monitoring technologies, e-mail and text messages, according to the survey.

Based on the findings, the group estimates the market for consumer remote monitoring devices is between $7.7 billion and $43 billion.

London-based PricewaterhouseCoopers said the results suggest there are marketing opportunities for companies creating consumer products or support systems that help ensure the security, speed and ease of transmitting health data between patients and doctors.

However, significant barriers still remain, the group warned. Many hospital IT networks already struggle to keep up with their bandwidth demands, PricewaterhouseCoopers said. And doctors are still largely reimbursed only for in-person visits.

"Public payers and private health insurers, who are primarily responsible for paying for health care, have generally not pushed for adoption of mobile health," the group noted in a release.

Of course, many companies aren't waiting around for payment incentives or IT infrastructures to change before launching products. Last month, DOTmed News profiled a British company releasing a smart phone in Europe later this year that can actually take ECG readings.