mHealth in Europe – Where Is The Disconnect?

There have been several reports on mobile playing a significant role in healthcare. New health-focused apps seem to appear out of thin air and winning over physicians who would like to prescribe these applications for patients. Virtually everything is possible to squeeze in an app – self-monitoring, calorie-counting, self-diagnosing, educational material for patients, database of drugs with interactions, and the list could go on and on.

A recent study published by GSMA research suggested that mobile health is so popular it is predicted to be worth 23 Billion dollars by 2017. Other staggering surveys showed the fast-paced growth of mobile use: there are 4 Billion mobile phones in use worldwide and 1.08 Billion of those are smartphones. These numbers show clearly the potential of the mobile and app market. Other predictions point out that by 2014 mobile internet use should take over desktop internet usage, which means more and more people are using their mobile phones as the primary tool for web browsing, social networking and getting information.

So given all the data mentioned above I was surprised to find the not-so-promising findings about mHealth apps in Europe. Based on the study Citizens and ICT for Health in 14 EU countries ICT consequences published the following data about internet users in Europe and their use of health, wellness apps:

  • 77% stated that they never use it;
  • 7% stated that they were not aware of it;
  • 6% stated that they use it less than once a month
  • 5% stated that they use it at least once a month (but not every week)
  • 4% stated that they use it at least once a week (but not every day)
  • 1% stated that they use it every day or almost every day

So where is the disconnect? What makes Europeans reluctant to use health-related applications? It is clear that this is not an issue of awareness. Other than the numerous articles published about mobile applications every day and the speedy growth of smartphone purchases the data above points out that only 7% of respondents were not familiar with health apps.

So if it is not awareness than what is causing the disconnect? A possible assumption could be the lack of user-friendly or user-centered applications. According to a study carried out by Consumer Health Information Corporation (CHIC), the top reasons why users quit an application are the release of better versions and lack of user-friendly features. But what does that mean “user-friendly”? According to the findings the key elements are: easy to navigate, informative and interactive. This means that the main goals while developing a mobile app should be to keep it as simple as possible while still being informative and use the advantages of interactive features. The fact that users like an app to be interactive can’t come as a surprise since social networking and playing games on mobile phones are in the top 5 favorite activities on a mobile device.

So we can conclude that just because an area of innovations is considered trendy, doesn’t mean it has reached its full potential of providing important features for users. The speed of growth of a market cannot be an excuse for the lack of user-friendly and useful, creative solutions.

(Source: ICTconsequences.net)

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for quoting the presentation. As you may notice in the technical information of the online survey the data was gathered in a transparent and robust way.

    I’m currently analysing mHealth following Social determinants of Health and ICT for Health (eHealth) conceptual framework

    http://www.ictconsequences.net/2011/11/09/social-determinants-of-health-and-ict-for-health-ehealth-conceptual-framework/

    This framework allows us to move from availability following MOTIVATION (triggers, empowerment and barriers), ICT for Health readiness (awareness, skills and usages), Willingness to use…. to USE, IMPACT and BEHAVIOURS.

    Comments about the framework are welcome

    Reply
    • h2online

       /  April 27, 2012

      Thank you for the great information! I’ll be sure to check back for the results – very interesting area of research! Thanks for sharing the findings!

      Reply

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