Rock Health: Digital health adoption on the rise, but wearables, telemedicine lag behind

By Jonah Comstock
03:18 pm

Eighty-seven percent of Americans used at least one digital health tool in 2017, up from 80 percent in 2015, according to a new survey out from Rock Health. For the past three years, Rock Health has surveyed 4,000 U.S. adults about digital health use and perceptions.

“With data from 2015 to 2017, we see a clear upward trend of consumers taking control of their healthcare via the use of digital tools like telemedicine, wearables, and online provider reviews,” Rock Health researchers Megan Zweig, Jen Shen, and Lou Jug wrote. “… But the needle has not moved equally across every subgroup of the population — nor across every type of digital health solution. … So while digital health solutions promise impactful, even life-altering outcomes for patients, consumers are still transitioning to testing out — and sustainably integrating — these solutions into their lives.”

The most widely adopted digital health tools were online health information and online provider reviews, which had 79 percent and 58 percent adoption respectively. Mobile tracking and wearables, on the other hand were at 24 percent, with live video telemedicine at 19 percent. Adoption in each category has grown each year with two exceptions: wearables sat at 24 percent two years in a row, while video telemedicine actually dropped from 22 percent in 2016.

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The report holds a few different insights for telemedicine specifically. Key drivers seem to be financial skin in the game and a strong physician relationship.

Asked to rate their satisfaction with their telemedicine visit, 91 percent of those who paid out of pocket said they were satisfied (“moderately satisfied” or “extremely satisfied”), compared to 62 percent of those who didn’t. Likewise, 92 percent of respondents who had a prior in-person visit with the same physician were satisfied with that visit, compared to 53 percent with no prior visit.

The survey looked at self-tracking with wearables and apps and found that a majority of health tracking is still happening without the aid of digital tools. Fifty-four percent of respondents using more than one medication tracked their adherence, but only 11 percent did so with an app. Sixty-six percent of respondents with hypertension tracked their blood pressure, but, again, only 11 percent did so with an app.

Respondents who self-identified as obese were more likely to use digital tools to track, with 20 percent tracking weight on an app, 29 percent tracking food or diet, and 56 percent tracking physical activity.

Being more physically active also remains the number one stated reason for using a wearable, with 54 percent of users citing that reason in 2017. Forty percent used a wearable to lose weight, 24 percent to sleep better, and 18 percent to manage stress. All of those were up from 2016 except stress management, which was actually a drop.

Rock Health also asked the 27 percent of respondents who had ditched their wearable why they stopped. The number one reason was that they had achieved the goal for which they obtained it. The number two reason was that they found the wearable ineffective for achieving their goal.

Check out the full brief here, which also includes information on data security perceptions, online search tools, and how digital health tool usage breaks down among demographic groups.


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