Electronic Health Records

Selection & Replacement News

Patients turn to mHealth over prescriptions, says survey

By Jennifer Bresnick

It might be a little hard to swallow, but 24% of patients are more willing to accept a prescription for an mHealth app than a pill, according to a recent survey of 2000 patients by Digitas Health.  The poll covered patients with a variety of chronic diseases, with 60% of active mHealth users diagnosed with their condition more than three years ago, suggesting that chronic disease patients are continually on the search for new methods to manage their conditions.  Ninety percent of patients were likely to accept a prescription for an mHealth app as opposed to 66% of patients who would be happy with a doctor’s order for medication.

Many of the participants were not being treated by a prescription drug for conditions such as respiratory diseases, heart conditions, diabetes, and digestive complaints.  More than half of patients were actively looking for new ways to manage their health, and were very interested in incorporating medical devices and mHealth apps into their plan.  “There’s an opportunity in this space to figure out how we can better serve patient needs and get them the treatment and information that’s going to make a difference to them,” said Geoff McCleary, Group Director of Mobile Innovations at Digitas Health.

The study showed that consumers were willing to spend money on smartphone-connecting monitoring devices like FitBits and wireless scales to make managing their daily activities easier.  “They’re doing that adherence level activity already without us and we, as experts in drugs, have a great opportunity to be able to help them, by providing even more information, tools and resources to use in conjunction with their medicines,” McCleary explained.

But why trust smartphones over the latest advances in medical science?  Patients who have lived with chronic diseases for several years have likely tried various combinations of pills and medications that may have produced unwelcome side effects or cost a great deal of money.  Accepting that many diseases can be improved by adding fitness and healthy dietary choices – easily monitored by commercial devices like the FitBit and free apps – is a triumph for preventative medicine advocates and patients alike.

But McCleary cautions that the survey’s findings should not be used to hold mHealth above medication as a magic bullet for patients, or as proof that consumers have turned their back on pharmaceutical intervention altogether.  “It’s about acknowledging the blurring of the lines between product and service and asking what the new evolution of healthcare should look like,” he explained. “The importance of this information is really around getting a better understanding of how that pill and that medication is going to be used. How does that fit into the life of the human being that needs to have that health outcome?”

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