AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Will Mobile Technology Help Close The Digital Divide?

A recent study is revealing that patients using telemedicine are more likely to be urban and well educated. Based on data from 53,000 households collected by the Census Bureau in July 2011, the report found 8 percent of urban Internet users took part in telemedicine initiatives, compared with 4 percent in rural areas. That stands in contrast to telemedicine’s common selling point that it can more effectively and conveniently provide services to people in remote locations.

Participants were also found to be wealthier.  At income levels of $100,000 or more, 11 percent of Internet users took part in remote care, compared 4 percent from households in the under $25,000 bracket.  The 25-44 age group was found to be the most likely segment using online services for medical care and information.

As access to telemedicine opportunities continue to grow it is expected that the demographics will likely shift to include lower-income and less-educated patients.  One technology that may improve access to telehealth services is the mobile or smart phone devices which appear to be closing the digital divide among various demographic segments of the population. Mobile technology has become especially critical for low-income minorities who have no other technological means of connecting to the internet.

Survey results released in September by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project indicate that African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to own a smartphone, with 49 percent of Hispanics, 47 percent of African Americans, and 42 percent of whites owning these mobile devices.  For these groups, mHealth has the potential to be a powerful tool in promoting healthy living and preventive medicine, particularly in combating the high rates of diabetes in these populations.

Development of new and innovative health related mobile applications and growing the number of smart phones in the hands of the more economically challenged population promises to be an effective means to bridging the healthcare gap in America. Health and Human Services (HHS) has called on developers to create a mobile application to help educate minorities and women about cancer screenings and allow secure access to medical records.

Only time will reveal whether telemedicine’s promising benefits of increased access and lower cost of quality medical care will better attract and reach those who are most in need.



If You Build It, Will They Come?

A recent report from the Pew Research Center measuring the number of adults using technology to track their health has presented some surprising findings.

The results of the Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, which were recently reported in iHealthbeat and supported by The California Healthcare Foundation, found that of 3,014 adults interviewed by phone, just 21 percent of the respondents actively used technology to track their health care. What may be even more surprising is that just 19 percent of those surveyed who owned smart phones, or just 7 percent of all respondents, had acquired an app to monitor their health. Susannah Fox, lead author of the report was surprised by the results and commented, “We’ve been looking at health apps since 2010, and health app uptake has been essentially flat for three years.”

A look at the science of the report, particularly the definition of “adults,” could give some more understandable insight as to the results and may produce answers for some of the “surprise” as to the outcome. Considering that most, older adults have a seemingly natural long acceptance curve when it comes to adopting technology and gadgets, and considering the well-entrenched privacy attitudes about everything to do with personal health information, the results may not be all that unexpected.

Purveyors of new communication technologies operate in environment where todays new devise and idea is often well into obsolescence by tomorrow; such rapid progression of invention to development is unmatched by other industries and beyond the understanding of most consumers. Expecting an equally aggressive acceptance rate by the markets is unreasonable, even when the benefits of convenience and utilization are so obvious to so many.

Given the generally slow acceptance rate of consumer health products, a three year period of market penetration may not be a reasonable benchmark to measure the success or failure of health care applications. Only more time will reveal if the “acceptance curve” will sharpen and the adoption and usage rates grow more dramatically.

“Build it and they will come”. Perhaps, but it may just take a bit longer for their arrival.