Somewhere between physicians and patients is the truth about digital health and patient engagement

Physicians say they prescribe apps far more than patients seem to think they do, if a survey carried out by Nielsen and commissioned by the Council of Accountable Physician Practices is anything to go by. MobiHealth News reported that Nielsen talked to 30,007 U.S. consumers and 626 U.S. physicians for the poll.

More than 50 percent of physicians said they had recommended that patients use a fitness tracking app in the past 12 months. About 40 percent said they recommended wearables to their patients and 45 percent of doctors said they had recommended biometric tools to track things like sleep or heart rate. Yet there was a sharp contrast with consumer numbers, as MobiHealth News observed.

When it comes to self-tracking, 5 percent of consumers say their doctor has recommended an app to track activity, 4 percent reported that their doctor recommended an app to monitor biometrics like heart rate or blood pressure, and 4 percent report their doctor recommended they use a wearable to track activity. Only the wearable number was up from 2015, by just one percent. The others remained level.

So why the vast difference in the numbers? A different understanding of what wearables and apps are? Selective hearing? A lack of interest from patients? It’s not clear. The numbers were considerably better when it came to email as a way to access physicians or receive healthcare-oriented reminders. One quarter of patients surveyed said they could email questions to their physicians, and 14 percent had done so. About 32 percent said they had access to text message medical appointment reminders and 21 percent had used it.

But if prescribing or recommending the use of wearables and apps is going to go anywhere, physicians and patients both need to do a better job of communicating their interests, expectations and have a practical understanding of what their patients’ limitations are and address them.



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