Docs Seen as Key Driver for Patient mHealth Adoption

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Despite the explosion of mobile healthcare technology available to consumers, just 15 percent of physicians are discussing wearables or health apps with their patients as tools for achieving wellness, according to market research firm MedPanel.

At the same time, the firm found that physicians at accountable care organizations are more than twice as likely to discuss wearables or apps compared to physicians not part of an ACO.

In a separate survey of 500 medical professionals by Research Now, 86 percent of providers said they have a better understanding of a patient’s medical condition with the help of mHealth apps, while 76 percent reported that they believed apps helped patients manage chronic conditions. And, 46 percent of those surveyed thought that apps can make patient transitions from hospitals to home-based care easier.

MedPanel’s survey of 415 U.S. physicians indicated that patients not using wearables or apps could benefit from mHealth technology. However, MedPanel puts the onus of wearable/mobile adoption not on doctors but vendors, who must target providers by better understanding what they are looking for in apps and wearables.

Also See: Why Wearables are Loudly Knocking on the Doctor’s Door

“As long as tech companies view wearables and apps as consumer-driven markets, these products will remain a fad,” said Jason LaBonte, president of MedPanel, in a written statement. “But if they engage physicians to recommend these products, wearables and apps will be viewed as part of healthcare and become permanent fixtures.”

Still, on average the survey results indicate that doctors are only mildly satisfied with current product offerings. An improvement that could convince more physicians to recommend mHealth to their patients: the ability to integrate mobile healthcare data directly into electronic health record systems.

Two attributes that physicians say are most important to them are ease of use and the clinical utility of data the devices generate. According to the survey, the Microsoft Band scored the highest of all wearables for satisfaction in these areas. Yet, of all product attributes measured by MedPanel, physicians were least satisfied with the ability of products to help them meet mandates set by payers and practice managers—important influencers of mobile adoption.

When it comes to name recognition, survey results indicate that the Apple Watch is the product that most physicians (82 percent) are aware of, not surprising given Apple’s recent marketing blitz to promote their smartwatch in the consumer health market. But, by a 2 to 1 margin, physicians are most familiar with Fitbit, which has been available in the market for a longer time.

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