Mobile Phone Users Increasingly Using Phones for Health Research


U.S. mobile phone owners use their phones for health research more than they did 2 years ago, according to “Mobile Health 2012,” a new report from Pew Internet & American Life Project (via iHealthBeat).

“What percentage of cell phone owners use their phone to look up health information?”

As you can see from the accompanying Pew chart, the percentages have trended up across all age groups, with health research on mobile phones more than doubling among ages 30–49 and almost tripling among the coveted 50–64 group (boomers). The youngest adults (18–29) are leading the way in terms of the highest overall usage rate (42%), but the middle-agers are not far behind (39%), while even the seniors gained one percentage point in the last 2 years. Overall, 31% of mobile phone owners have used phones to find health information, compared to 17% two years ago.

Certainly, if hospitals and treatment centers are paying attention to the best ways to reach patients and the community at large, the young adults’ growing health research habits could bode well for the future of technologically savvy health communication and care, to say nothing of potentially improved wellness and better outcomes. Indeed, serious proposals for HIPAA-compliant text messaging argue for improved doctor-patient communication:

“By using a private, secure texting network, doctors, nurses, and staff can not only send and receive patient information, but also … securely communicate lab results, imaging results, patient procedures, and medical histories … Used properly, texting technology has the potential to revolutionize the quality of how health care is delivered to patients.”

–Andrew A. Brooks, MD (“Healthcare Texting in a HIPAA-Compliant Environment.”)

Now that it’s known just how much healthcare consumers use mobile phones for health research, a key question that health systems and treatment centers must ask themselves is, “When people visit our website on a mobile device, what do they find?” If your answer is your standard full website, then you need some help. Web browsing on mobile devices needs be to catered to small screens and clumsy digits, which generally means a more streamlined version of your regular site distilled to only its most essential elements. (Read more about going mobile in the Fathom blog’s mobile section.)

Regardless of the current state of your hospital’s mobile website, your patients’ increasing use of their mobile phones to get health information is undeniable, whether they are browsing the Web or among the 19% of smartphone users that have health apps.

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