Health IT, Patient Engagement

Rock Health: What are consumer attitudes to digital health?

While most people limit themselves to searching for health information online, there’s plenty of curiosity for telemedicine, remote monitoring and using texts and emails to get health info.

This post has been updated from an earlier version

Rock Health has released a report on consumer use of digital health that offers a few surprises. The survey of 4,000 consumers shows that while most people limit themselves to searching for health information online for things like prescription medication, symptoms and their potential causes, there’s plenty of curiosity for telemedicine, remote monitoring and using texts and emails to get health info. I’ve highlighted some of the findings here.

Online searches, physician reviews dominate

When most people think of digital health this it is Googling things like conditions and symptoms (81 percent) and looking up physician ratings (50 percent). Although tracking different aspects of health through apps is used by a significant number of respondents (17 percent), genetic services and telemedicine are only used by 7 percent of respondents. 32 percent said they had adopted two of these digital health tools.

Prescription drug info tops the list of online search targets

Rock Health illustrated the connection between online searches and putting that information to practical use. Of the 60 percent who looked up prescription drugs and their side effects, about 35 percent used that information in a conversation with their physician to either see if their doctor can give them a prescription for a certain drug or discontinue a current prescription. More than half of respondents who did an online search based on symptoms (57 percent) used that info to have a conversation with a doctor about a diagnosis for symptoms the researched online (45 percent).

Who/what are the most trusted sources of health information?

Respondents ranked their physician followed by any physician over friends and family. Health websites — such as WebMD, Everyday Health or others — topped apps and social networks.

Low-fi options like pen and paper, memory and telephone are more popular for tracking health and telemedicine use than apps, wearables, video interaction

About 12 percent of respondents currently track their weight on paper and even more (35 percent) do it in their heads. Blood pressure and food/diet are other areas where people tend to track that information by writing it down (12 percent and 6 percent respectively) or keeping it in their head (12 percent and 32 percent respectively).

For telemedicine, most respondents (68 percent) said they would prefer to use phone for urgent use cases as well as for non urgent use cases (56 percent). The report reasons that this option boils down to the fact that video interaction is still an emerging aspect of telemedicine for most consumers. The areas where they would most be inclined to switch to mobile tracking in the future include weight (27 percent), physical activity (20 percent) and food and diet (20 percent).

What motivates wearable users?

Rock Health makes a case for the 12 percent of respondents using wearable as unhealthy people trying to get healthier, which goes against the stereotype that most users of wearables are healthy people who want to quantify or improve performance. The motivations are familiar — 65 percent say they want to be more active, 42 percent want to lose weight and 20 percent want to use them to track their sleep. A deeper dive shows that 57 percent consider themselves healthy and 33 percent have been hospitalized in the past year.

Data privacy

Consumers want to be in the driver’s seat but they are not averse to sharing data.  About 92 percent said they agree or strongly agree they should be in control of their own health data. As to who they would they would share that info with: 80 percent said physicians so they could receive better care from their doctor, 59 percent said they would allow it to be used for medical research. Giving members a discounted rate on their health insurance would motivate 50 percent of respondents to share their health data. A financial reward in exchange for their data was not enough to shift most respondents, although 39 percent said they it would.

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