Survey Reveals Many Americans Are Nonadherent to Downloaded Health Apps

Pharmacy Times, December 2015 Heart Health, Volume 81, Issue 12

Within the past decade, technological growth in the mobile sphere has been explosive, especially with respect to health and wellness apps and trackers.

Within the past decade, technological growth in the mobile sphere has been explosive, especially with respect' to health and wellness apps and trackers. Despite their availability, however, many people are nonadherent to their apps.

A survey conducted by 'NYU Langone Medical' Center asked 1604 adult' smartphone users about' their health app habits.'They also self-reported 'their overall health sta'tus and other personal 'information. All were 18' years or older and spoke 'English. The median age was 40 years, and the majority had an annual income of less than $50,000.

The 36-question survey revealed that 58% had downloaded at least '1 of the 40,000 available health apps—with 42% having downloaded 5 or more. Among those who downloaded health apps, 65% reported having improved health and a high level of faith in the accuracy of the app, although 46% admitted they do not use the apps anymore. Survey participants cited hidden fees, privacy issues, declining interest over time, and other concerns as reasons for allowing their health app use to fall by the wayside.

The most downloaded and used health apps were associated with personal fitness maintenance and nutrition: physical activity trackers (53%), food consumption (48%), weight loss (47%), and exercise advice (34%). About 65% 'of respondents reported using 'their apps daily. There was no difference between men and women' in this respect. However, the more consistent app users generally were younger, were more educated, had a higher income, were of Hispanic ethnicity, or were clinically obese.

Study lead investigator and clinical psychologist Paul Krebs, PhD, assistant professor at NYU Langone, said the survey findings revealed gaps in health app use and that further investigation is warranted to determine how to best close those gaps. “Our study suggests that while many Americans have embraced health apps along with their smartphones, there are challenges to keeping users engaged and many Americans who might benefit are not using them at all,” he said in a press release. “There is still much more to be learned about how we can broaden the appeal and make best use of the wide variety of health apps now available—not just for fitness and nutrition, but for other purposes, such as monitoring sleep and scheduling medical appointments.”

Improving health app usability could have wide-ranging effects. According to the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of Americans owned a smartphone as of April 2015. Regardless of how many patients are using health apps or how long they use them, pharmacists and other health providers should be aware of the available apps. They should also remind patients that any medical advice gleaned from these technologies is by no means conclusive. This is especially true for symptom trackers. A study recently published in BMJ found that more than one-third of US adults are using the Internet to self-diagnose.

The survey results were published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth.