2015 Is Already Bringing Clarity for mHealth Developers
Need a sign that healthcare consumerism has taken hold of the current landscape? MobiHealthNews cited Fabio Sergio, Executive Creative Director of Frog Design, in its list of memorable mobile health quotes, who said that “today, there are numerous non-traditional health service providers — Nike, Fitbit, Microsoft, Qualcomm—moving quickly into this space. And with health-related services like Asthmapolis or [Massive Health’s] The Eatery sitting on an iPhone or Android screen beside Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook applications, the boundaries between lifestyle and life-care are blurring, perhaps even fading away.”
If you’re looking for even more confirmation, the acceleration of regulatory actions related to mHealth technology oversight is the exclamation point.
Let’s explore the proposed policies and legislation that are in the works.
The Time to ACT is Now
In January, FierceMobileHealthcare noted that last fall, ACT | The App Association, which represents more than 5,000 app developers, software companies and IT firms related to the mobile marketplace, “…called on lawmakers to speed innovation and app development for the healthcare sector without sacrificing security and privacy protection.” Sponsor members, including Apple, AT&T, Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, identified three specific changes that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) needs to make to facilitate the process:
- Revamp existing regulations for greater clarity and relevance to tech companies.
- Improve and update guidance from the Office of Civil Rights on HIPAA-appropriate applications.
- Increase outreach to new innovators in the healthcare industry.
A bi-partisan request from Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell emphasized these points and Burwell responded positively, recognizing that guidance needs to adapt to the emerging technology. And, FierceMobileHealthcare also reports, ACT executive director Morgan Reed is pleased with the agency’s initial responses, however warns that “as OCR approaches these updates, it’s critical that the solutions balance the needs of innovators, and the ability for patients to access their health information.”
Identifying Likely Users Demands Insight
Of course, mHealth technology companies — and the healthcare providers who hope to leverage mHealth solutions — have more than the regulatory ambiguity and HIPAA-compliance hurdles ahead. How will they successfully target, and activate, users for their mHealth tools?
The market for mHealth apps is certainly growing. According to a study conducted by Manhattan Research in 2013, the number of Americans who used their mobile phones as healthcare tools or to find healthcare information rose by 27 percent over the previous year to 95 million. Moreover, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has previously noted that industry experts expect the number of mobile apps to multiply 25 percent annually for the foreseeable future.
But getting users to engage with advanced healthcare apps — beyond the drug reference tools or weight loss and fitness apps that currently dominate the market — requires a deep understanding of healthcare consumers. Relying on demographics alone is not enough.
While smartphone users may have been dominated by a specific demographic in the past, smartphones have crossed those boundaries in recent years. And targeting a consumer population based on a shared diagnosis is no guarantee of success. The famous movie adage, “if you build it, they will come,” ignores the fact that consumers may have very different motivations for engaging with mHealth apps.
The PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic, a nationally representative study among healthcare consumers age 18+, looked at consumer usage of nearly 70 health & fitness apps. The study sought to identify the most popular health & fitness apps among the general population and various subpopulations, including the five PatientBond Psychographic Segments.
The most popular health & fitness apps among the general population include MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, CVS Pharmacy, 7 Minute Workout, Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker and WebMD. However, there were clear differences in such app utilization among the Psychographic Segments:
- Self Achievers and Balance Seekers are statistically (95% confidence) the most likely to have downloaded and used a health & fitness app. This is not surprising, as they are the most proactive and wellness-oriented of the five Psychographic Segments.
- Self Achievers are the most likely to use Fitbit, 7 Minute Workout and CVS Pharmacy
- Balance Seekers are the most likely to use MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, or a health & fitness app not listed among the 67 choices listed in the survey.
- While Willful Endurers are less likely to regularly use health & fitness apps, in general, they have downloaded and tried quite a few.
- The most popular health & fitness app among Priority Jugglers is Fitbit, while among Direction Takers it is WebMd.
Each Psychographic Segment has its own motivations toward health and wellness, as well as its own preferences regarding communications and app design. Depending on the intended target audience for an app or patient engagement strategy, these variables should be kept in mind.
Leveraging qualitative and quantitative market research with PatientBond's psychographic segmentation model helps healthcare-related organizations understand the unique needs of audience segments within a broader population. By adapting engagement tactics to reflect individuals’ attitudes towards health and wellness, organizations that hope to use mHealth apps to improve health outcomes will find greater success.
Do you have an app in the wings? Once you get past the regulatory questions, make sure your roll-out plans target the right people with the right message. Learn more about the value of psychographic segmentation by contacting PatientBond or reading our whitepaper on patient activation.