A year ago, I was anxiously awaiting the results from our 2010 Cybercitizen Health survey of U.S. adults. I was particularly excited for this edition of the survey, as 2010 marked the tenth year that I’d been working in digital health, and the tenth version of the CCH study. The iPad had launched earlier in the year, and thanks to the proliferation of the Android platform, smartphones were starting to take off in earnest among U.S. consumers. When I received the results, I will admit (now) that I was a bit disappointed. Although there had been substantial changes in the past ten years, 2009-2010 didn’t bring the seismic shifts that all of us in digital health had been waiting for, and felt was imminent.
The funny thing about doing research with the overall U.S. adult population (using over 3,000 land line and mobile phone interviews, plus over 5,000 online interviews) is that it’s a reminder that the overall population doesn’t necessarily look the way East Coast office parks look when it comes to technology adoption and behaviors.
But in 2011, the wait was over. In 2011, the world changed.
Although we are still combing through the results of this mammoth study, a few of the changes were striking – and speak to just how much the world has changed in the past year – across the country.
A few of the highlights:
Mobile Health: Smartphone adoption skyrocketed from 25% of U.S. adults to 38% of U.S. adults in the past year – and many analysts predict it will be at half of the population by the end of this year. Not surprisingly, this led to a huge jump in consumers relying on their mobile phones for health information seeking.
Engaging with health data: Although we’re a long way from interoperability of EHRs driving true data integration, the meaningful use guidelines for EHRs were hugely successful in driving one key metric for patient engagement – in 2011, we saw 56 million U.S. adults had accessed an electronic health record.
Moving beyond info seeking: For all the gains we’ve seen in consumer empowerment and online health info seeking in the past decade, there is not clear evidence that this has led to improvements in the health of the overall population. This is the next challenge for digital health: moving consumers beyond health info seeking and education toward using tools and data to better manage conditions and change behaviors. Use of these types of tools has traditionally been limited to a tiny segment of the population, but there is evidence that use of these tools and services are picking up steam – especially fueled by mobile apps and services and access to data through health records.
Stay tuned for more findings from this study – and buckle up: all signs point to 2012 being a very exciting year to be in digital health.