Are older patients ready for the personal healthcare revolution?

At Ringful Health, we build healthcare applications on smartphones that empower individuals to take control of their health at anytime anywhere. When we talk with established players in the healthcare field, the first question people always ask is this:

“This is very cool. But most of our patients are old and sick, will they use those hip smartphone apps?”

To answer this, our CMO Dr. Shaw and Texas State University professor Dr. Ju Long graciously helped us run a patient survey. The research survey is rather long, but here are some enlightening findings.

Of 163 patients we surveyed, the median age is 62 years old — yes, we specifically targeted a clinic with older patients in town, but that has made our findings all the more remarkable. A full 56% of those patients have smartphones (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile)! The median age for those smartphone toting patients is 56.

77% of all patients see the need to keep personal health records. In fact, 56% already use some basic form of PHRs — most of them (53%) just keep the records in a paper folder, and only 4% currently use computerized records. This crowd is ready for some technology empowerment!

Among smartphone users, 54% of patients want to use their smartphones to keep track of medical records, and 5% are willing to pay for such services on a subscription basis.

As we identified at Ringful Health, a powerful use case for smartphone-based healthcare applications is for the patient to keep a daily journal of treatments and outcomes. Examples include Ringful Health’s Pain Manager, Healthy Heart, Asthma Journal, and Pollen Journal applications. So, we asked the patients whether they would keep a medical journal if their doctor asks for it. The answer is that 87% patients, both in the general population and among smartphone users, would at least try to keep the journals. That is great hope for mobile application providers in this field!

Not surprisingly, smartphone users are pretty internet savvy, with 81% of them have searched for healthcare / medical issues online. But at the same time, only about 10% engage in online forums or discussion boards for healthcare issues — highlighting the private nature of healthcare information.

In addition, we found that 74% of patients would like to consult with doctors on the phone. But the majority of them, 61%, would only do so if it is paid by their insurance company. This outlines the challenges of tele-health — a system wide change is needed for tele-health solutions to reach their full potentials in terms of cost saving and improved outcomes.

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