Rock Health Dissects Consumer Digital Health Trends In New Report

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Rock Health publishes findings from a national survey it conducted to measure overall consumer adoption of various digital health technologies. The new report is a summary of experiences and opinions expressed by over 4,000 consumers interviewed for the study, a group that Rock Health says is statistically representative of the entire US adult population.

To quantify adoption rates for the major consumer digital health categories, survey respondents were asked which of the following items they had personally used "or performed in the past: researching online health information about diseases or symptoms; reading online doctor reviews; using apps that support health tracking, such as diet apps or fitness apps; wearable fitness trackers; telemedicine services; and consumer-focused genetic testing. The survey found that searching for diseases and symptoms was far and away the most popular digital health category, with 71 percent of respondents reporting that they had searched for health conditions in the past. Fifty percent reported that they had read reviews on their doctors, while all other categories had overall adoption rates under 20 percent.

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Interestingly, Rock Health concluded that “demographic indicators including gender, age, income, and education were not found to have a statistically significant effect on adoption of digital health,” a finding that goes against commonly held assumptions. Concluding that age does not directly correlate with adoption of digital health technologies bodes well for the potential impact digital health tools could have on bringing down the cost of care, as multiple studies on US healthcare spend confirm that the highest spenders are significantly older, and in worse health. One important caveat to note on the Rock Health report is that its adoption rate calculations exclude consumers without “personal Internet access, either at home, work or via their mobile phones,” a population that happens to be disproportionately elderly.

By limiting its analysis in this way, Rock Health excludes from its calculations the estimated 44 percent of Americans ages 65 and older that do not use the Internet at all. The survey corrects for this statistical problem by over-representing older respondents that do have Internet connections, thus balancing the demographics within the survey population so that they match the overall US population. The inherent problem with this approach is that by removing non-Internet connected elderly respondents from the denominator, the results present the picture of a more engaged 65+ population, when this is likely not the case. This population is an important group and is relevant to a meaningful discussion on consumer engagement with digital health tools. A growing list of startups are developing SMS-based engagement strategies to target just this high-cost population. A more interesting follow up study would be one that captured the attitudes and adoption trends of the entire 65+ population, comparing adoption rates of SMS, website, and app-based engagement strategies within the population.


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