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Mobile Health: Nearly 2 out of 3 Smartphone Users Research Health On the Go

The statistics on health care app usage tell a compelling story. The majority of U.S. adults now own smartphones, and in the past year 62% of them used their phone to research a health condition online.

The first wave of mobile app users focused mainly on diet and fitness, with MyFitnessPal and FitBit among the leaders. Today, consumers as well as providers are beginning to see the benefits of using apps to manage health care, from finding doctors and understanding symptoms to managing out-of-pocket costs. Here are a few examples of apps that are helping to transform interactions between consumers and health systems.

Understanding Symptoms
You wake up one morning and your child’s eye is swollen. What should you do? Is it pink eye, or something more serious? The iTriage app* includes a comprehensive list of possible causes, each with detailed information such as symptoms, tests, treatments, images and videos. AskMD lists 96 “consultations,” covering topics like headache, high blood pressure and fever in children. Both apps give users a trusted, verified source of health care information – a welcome alternative to other sources online that can pop up through “Dr. Google.” 
Finding a Doctor
Another key for consumers is accessibility - making it easy to find a physician wherever they are. Healthgrades and Better Doctor help consumers filter by ratings, reviews or educational background. iTriage, AskMD and ZocDoc help consumers find physicians by insurance plan, specialty and zip code. Some apps include physician ratings and online appointment scheduling features, so consumers can personalize their search and then immediately take action.  
Many physicians are expanding their reach and attracting new patients through apps such as HealthTap. Patients ask questions, and a physician responds via video chat. Doctor on Demand has similar functionality. 
ER, Urgent Care or Office Visit?
Depending on the situation, the ER could be the best possible care setting. In many cases, however, a trip to the ER may not be appropriate. iTriage was developed by two ER physicians to help consumers understand their symptoms before making an unnecessary and expensive trip to the ER – especially critical today, as consumers take on more responsibility for health care costs. iTriage includes cost information, helping consumers understand and make more informed decisions regarding the relative cost of care in different settings such as retail clinics, urgent care or the ER. 
In Network or Out-of-Network?
Many mobile apps integrate with insurance plan information, making it easy for consumers to find physicians in their network. Insurance company apps for members incorporate detailed plan information, and may include features such as:
  • Search for a doctor, dentist, hospital, or pharmacy
  • View claims
  • View coverage and benefits
  • Access Personal Health Records
  • View member ID card
  • Check drug prices
  • Contact us by phone
These are just a few examples of how apps are changing the dialogue between consumers and the health system. As health care continues to evolve, apps give consumers portable access to comprehensive, customized information, and empower them with tools to make better, more informed decisions.
*We are proud that iTriage is listed in Huffington Post’s 10 Apps To Help You Get The Health Care You Need. iTriage is in the Top 20 healthcare and fitness apps downloaded by iPhone and Android users, and is rated an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars or better. 15 million consumers have downloaded iTriage.

Categories: Consumer Engagement


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