Study: 42 percent of U.S. uses a smartphone

By Brian Dolan

ChangeResearch Smartphone User PenetrationRob Havasy, a business analyst at the Boston-based Center for Connected Health, which is a part of the Partners Healthcare group, penned a thoughtful column on the state of the mHealth market. Havasy's central point is that mobile health solutions need to be "meaningful" and "available" to all patients. That's certainly an ideal wireless health service providers should be working towards.

Havasy argues that while devices are in the market and services are on the way, mobile health technology has yet to achieve an ease of use that opens it up to the majority of users. He points to a statistic that states less than 3 percent of the U.S.'s 276 million wireless subscribers use iPhones. What Havasy fails to mention, though, is that the iPhone is not the only smartphone available or in use in the US today. It's certainly not the only smartphone platform offering health or medical apps. According to one research company's longitudinal surveys, about 42 percent of Americans owned smartphones in December 2009. That stat comes from a recently released ChangeWave Research study that is based on more than 4,000 surveys conducted in early December of last year.

I agree that many of the smartphone apps available today will not likely impact a majority of people's lives, and while 46 percent is much closer to a majority than 3 percent, the opportunity for wireless health clearly extends well beyond the smartphone platform. It needs to extend beyond that platform in order to reach many of those who would benefit from wireless health services most.

Havasy concludes that "when physiologic data and provider coaching flows just as simply [as it does for Amazon's Kindle users], even for patients whose primary means of communication is a traditional telephone, the true promise of mHealth will be realized." Havasy is spot on. The true promise of mHealth will begin to show once ease of use challenges are overcome.

In the meantime, however, a sizeable, constantly growing group of Americans (42 percent sounds a bit high to me) of the U.S. population is using smartphones. Today. No matter who they are, that is clearly a big opportunity for mHealth. And one that should not be discounted.

Be sure to read Havasy's article over at the Center for Connected Health blog