Study: Public awareness of mobile health low in UK

By Jonah Comstock
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The-Walk The Walk, a fitness app supported by the UK's National Health Service.

Although mobile health is becoming a priority for the government of the United Kingdom, a new online survey of over 2,000 adults from law firm Pincent Masons and research firm YouGov suggests that knowledge of mobile health is not especially wide-reaching. Seventy-three percent of respondents couldn't define the term "mHealth" and, after having it explained, 90 percent claimed not to use any mHealth technology, including fitness apps.

The survey also suggested some reticence to make use of mobile health technology. Only 31 percent agreed with the statement that mHealth services could improve the National Health Service (NHS), and only 33 percent said they would be willing to have their health monitored remotely. They were most receptive to using mobile technology for appointment booking, but even that only garnered 50 percent approval.

The survey compared retirees (who are statistically more likely to benefit from health technology) to active workers. They found retirees more resistant to the technology -- only 14 percent said mHealth would make their lives easier, compared to 33 percent of workers. Only 16 percent of retirees was comfortable being diagnosed remotely, compared to 29 percent of full time workers.

The survey suggested that the NIH was well positioned to influence public opinion, however, with 63 percent of respondents professing trust in the organization.

"For mHealth to succeed, the sector must be able to demonstrate an ability to generate revenue from either those who traditionally pay for our healthcare services (the NHS and the insurers) or the consumer," Matthew Godfrey-Faussett, a Partner at Pinsent Masons, said in a statement. "The survey results indicate that the UK public's enthusiasm for mHealth would not currently sustain serious consumer-driven revenues. Whilst attitudes will change, the challenge in the interim will be for UK mHealth businesses to operate for long enough to allow that change to happen."

One more finding was that consumers were surprisingly unconcerned with privacy with regards to their medical data: 62 percent said they were unconcerned. Of those with concerns, 59 percent said they would be less concerned if they were able to give consent each time their data was used. Forty-three percent wanted to be told exactly how their data would be used, and 50 percent they would be reassured as long as the system that held their medical data was trustworthy.