A new survey by the Consumer Health Information Corporation (CHIC) found that for all types of smartphone apps (not just health) 74 percent of apps were no longer used after the tenth try. What's more, 26 percent of apps were dropped after the first try. Reasons for dropping an app included finding a better one (34.4 percent), its lack of "user friendliness" (32.6 percent), or it not being engaging enough (15.8 percent). The survey included responses from 395 consumers.
Helpfully, CHIC's survey delved into some of the criteria consumers are looking for in a health app so they don't relegate the app to their mobile recycling bin: Some 91.1 percent of survey respondents said they wanted an app that provided them with health information, while 58.4 percent would like to manage a health issue via an app and 48.5 percent said they wanted to track their own health. About 79.9 percent said they would be more motivated to use an app that would analyze data they recorded and provide feedback.
While tracking data might be exciting, a large portion of survey takers wanted to use apps to find out info on drugs (42.2 percent) or disease (26.5 percent). Also promising was the finding that 39.8 percent of survey takers would use a health app multiple times a day. For health reminders or alerts, most respondents prefer receiving a text (41.1 percent) or a notice through the smartphone app (20.3 percent) rather than receiving a phone call (1.3 percent) to be reminded about taking medication or perform some other health related task.
The CHIC stats could make for interesting fodder but they are based on a small online survey.
A larger and more comprehensive survey conducted in October by the Pew Internet Project found that of the 85 percent of American adults who use a mobile phone today, 17 percent had used their phone to look up health or medical information. Mobile phone users aged 18 to 29-years-old were found to be much more likely to have searched for health information from their phones: 29 percent of this age group had conducted such a search. At the time about 9 percent of mobile phone users had a software app on their phone that helped them track or manage their health.
For many, apps as they exist today are not considered to be a winning channel for health behavior change. David Rose, CEO of Vitality (makers of the GlowCap) recently wrote about why he is "down on health apps": "I’m skeptical that people will use these apps every day, even the well designed ones. It’s true that more people have cellphones than computers, and many of these phones will support vast appstores in the coming years. But that doesn’t mean people will have the discipline or interest to use these apps, especially for logging what they eat, or if they have taken their medications... especially if they haven’t."
Earlier this year Dr Jay Parkinson of the Future Well (formerly with Hello Health) wrote a scathing post on health apps: "I think we can safely assume that the promise of apps radically revolutionizing our health is heavily inflated. So, then, what good are health apps? Health apps are about the equivalent of old school public health advertising. Just as I see an ad when I get on the subway telling me that this soft drink has 40 packets of sugar, I whip out my iPhone and see the Livestrong app on my homescreen reminding me that I need to eat well. I don’t really want to use it because it’s just such a drag."
Others, including the founders of Massive Health, believe that the health app of today is the problem and the potential is still great.
For more on the survey, read the press release.