Fifty-two percent of Michigan Medicaid recipients own a smartphone and 64 percent own a laptop, but only 40 percent own a tablet. Those are some of the many insights from a phone survey of 900 Medicaid consumers conducted by the Michigan Public Health Institute and presented today by MPHI Health Engagement Manager James Bell III at the Pop Health Forum in Boston.
“With the data we captured we’re able to determine the ownership and usage patterns of Medicaid consumers and, using this survey as our guide, we’re getting an entry level guide of what engagement should look like,” Bell said. “We’re also in a position to see how health information technology serves as a vehicle for consumer engagement. And I think part of our role is to be aware of existing and developing tools that are available to engage consumers. We can now better recommend what types of digital interventions should be successful based on accessibility and preferences.”
Additionally, they found that the older respondents were, the less likely they were to own smartphones or tablets, but laptop ownership stayed fairly consistent across age groups.
“We as leaders in this engagement space must be prepared to meet consumers where they are,” Bell said. “Different populations have different engagement styles and preferences. It may be unrealistic to expect everyone to adopt a new tablet application, when we just discussed how tablets are not a leader when it comes to technology preference.”
In addition to device ownership, consumers were also asked about their technology usage habits. Seventy percent reported having reliable internet access, and 73 percent reported doing online searches for health-related information. Fifty-two percent reported that their medical provider had given them health information electronically, but less than a third of respondents actually accessed that information.
“Access can be a significant barrier to engagement, but we see here there’s a strong presence of connectivity for consumers,” Bell said. “On top of that, patients are using that connectivity to look for health information online.”
One area where there’s room for improvement is the tracking of health information — including medical histories as well as tracking things like vitals. Data showed that 47 percent of respondents depended on their provider for health tracking, 46 percent said they had things memorized, and just 28 percent use a patient portal or an app.
“Knowing the vast majority of our consumers are tracking their health information in some way is a step in the right direction, and we have room to grow in getting patients to track their information electronically,” Bell said. “I think it's a great opportunity to report on the specifics they’re looking for in a health application.”
Bell noted the benefit of tracking and storing information electronically is not just that it’s more reliable, but also that the data can more easily be shared.
“Just behind having it memorized is having it written down,” he said. “My grandmother puts all of her health information on the refrigerator on post-it notes. But imagine her bringing her post-it note collection to the doctor’s office.”
Finally, 72 percent of respondents said their healthcare provider had used technology during their last appointment and 63 percent said the technology had a positive effect on their appointment.