Healthcare Business News

More Americans using mobile phones to look up health information

By Joseph Conn
Posted: November 9, 2012 - 1:45 pm ET

Here's the latest rundown of mobile application usage in healthcare from a survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet and the American Life Project and the California Healthcare Foundation: Of the 3,014 adults surveyed between Aug. 7 and Sept. 6, 85% own some form of mobile phone, and 45% own a smartphone.

The 31% of all mobile-phone owners who said they use their phone to look up health or medical information is not quite double the 17% who said the same in a similar survey conducted in September 2010.

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A greater share of women than men reported using their cellphone to look up health or medical information—31% of female cellphone owners versus 29% of men. Higher earners, too, were more likely than lower earners to look up health information (37% who reported income of more than $50,000 versus 28% of those earning less than $30,000). Racial and ethnic minorities (Hispanics, 38%; non-Hispanic blacks, 35%) more than non-Hispanic whites (27%) reported using their mobile phone for this purpose. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile-phone users ages 18 through 29 (42%) were significantly more likely than those 65 or older (9%) to research health information via their phone.

Also, 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. Black smartphone owners were more likely to have a health app on their devices (21%), than white (19%) or Hispanic (15%) smartphone owners.

Mobile applications as weapons in the battle of the bulge are by far the most common deployment for health apps, according to the survey. The most popular health apps fell into the categories of "exercise, fitness, pedometer or heart-rate monitoring" (38%), "diet, food, calorie counter" (31%) or "weight" (12%). Apps in clinical-use categories, such as those for monitoring blood pressure (5%) and managing blood sugar and diabetes (2%) or medication use (2%), were far less widely used.

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