NEW YORK, Feb. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans are ready and willing to leverage health apps and wearable devices to improve their personal health, according to the findings released today from the Fifth Annual Makovsky/Kelton "Pulse of Online Health" Survey. Designed to uncover shifts in consumer behaviors around online healthcare information use, this year's survey reveals consumer readiness to disclose online personal health data as a path to improve treatment options. Data also cite trust and quality of health information as important factors in consumer selection of online health sources and show that many consumers are willing to pay more for medications based on efficacy or lower side effect profiles.
"Smartphones and wearables are driving a major behavioral shift in consumer health and wellness," said Gil Bashe, executive vice president, Makovsky Health. "Beyond a desire to speed access to information, consumers are using technology to engage proactively in managing their health – and a personality of 'search' is influenced by specific medical conditions. We also see stark differences between Millennials and those 66 and older in this year's survey. Savvy health marketers will apply these insights to engage and involve patients in more meaningful, customized ways."
An uptick in mobile usage for managing consumer health also is contributing to a dramatic shift in behavior when it comes to personal transparency. Health information has long hid behind the walls of patient confidentiality, with consumers and physicians holding personal health information close to their vests. In today's digital world, however, consumers and physicians cannot share health information online fast enough.
Consumers Eager to Leverage Technology for Better Health
Mobile health platforms, in particular, represent a huge opportunity to improve health; almost two-thirds (66%) of Americans would use a mobile app to manage health-related issues. Millennials are leading the digital health charge, as they are more than twice as likely to express interest in using a mobile app to manage their health compared to those Americans 66 and older.
Top interests when downloading and using mobile health apps reflect proactive desires for informative, functional and interactive programs:
- Tracking diet/nutrition (47%)
- Medication reminders (46%)
- Tracking symptoms (45%), and
- Tracking physical activity (44%).
Most common motivators for using a mobile app vary across health conditions. More than six in 10 (63%) Americans with gastrointestinal conditions would use mobile health apps to track diet and nutrition; among obese or overweight consumers, 61 percent would make use of a mobile app to communicate with a doctor; half (50%) of those with pulmonary conditions would use a mobile app for medication reminders; and 52 percent of Americans with cardiovascular issues would use a mobile app to track sleeping patterns.
Similarly, 79 percent of Americans would be willing to use a wearable device to manage their health – but with slightly different preferences when selecting a wearable compared to mobile apps:
- Tracking physical activity (52%)
- Tracking symptoms (45%)
- Managing a personal health issue or condition (43%)
- Tracking sleep patterns (41%), and
- Tracking diet/nutrition (39%).
Additionally, 88 percent of Americans would be willing to share their personal information for the sake of improving care and treatment options, proving that many consumers feel there is a value in digital advancements that empower them to manage their health, and potentially opening the door for more streamlined physician engagement.
Healthcare Decisions Still Guided by Perceived Quality of Information Source
Trust and quality sources for healthcare information are important to consumers, and people are three times more likely to look to WebMD (57%) over government-affiliated websites such as the CDC (17%) or FDA (16%).
"It's amazing that, almost 20 years after it launched, WebMD has become America's doctor. Online searches are the new house call. This survey shows Americans aren't relying exclusively on healthcare providers or the government for health information these days, underscoring the enormous opportunity for health news organizations and healthcare companies to become go-to sources," said Tom Bernthal, founder and CEO of Kelton.
Among the 91 percent of Americans who would search online for health information, condition management (58%), exploring symptoms (57%), and researching a prescribed treatment (55%) are the most popular motivators. In contrast, if consumers were diagnosed with a medical condition, they would be most likely to research symptoms (41%), treatment options (26%), and specialized doctors and care facilities (18%).
Of the 80 percent of Americans willing to visit a pharma-sponsored website, those 66 and older were more likely to visit the site if a healthcare professional recommended it (52%). Doctor recommendation matters less to Millennials, with 41 percent visiting a site based on physician suggestion, and Millennials are also 23 percent more likely to be motivated by an advertisement to visit a pharma-sponsored website than those 66 and older
When it comes to social media, Millennials are 25 percent more likely to trust a pharma-sponsored platform than those 66 and older (31% vs. 6%). Social media lacks authority with the general population as 79 percent of respondents reported they trust these channels either "a little bit" or "not at all." Patients with a diagnosed chronic medical condition, however, report "complete trust" in these channels at nearly double the rate of the average population.
Willingness To Pay For Innovation
Although medication cost remains a hot-button issue and concern for Americans, many are willing to dig deeper into their pockets for improved care. If deciding between a newer brand-name medication with a $30 copay and an older medication with a $10 copay, 84 percent of the country would choose the more expensive option. Top factors influencing this decision would be: fewer side effects (62%), data showing the medication was more effective than the less expensive option (60%), doctor recommendation (52%) and easier dosing (36%).
More Millennials (56%) than those 66 and older (45%) said they would be motivated by data showing the medication was more effective, or by fewer side effects (55% vs. 43%), while more people 66 and older (49%) than Millennials (43%) would be motivated by the recommendation of a healthcare professional.
"Fewer side effects" would be a stronger motivator to opt for a more expensive brand-name drug for Americans with mental health issues (72%) and gastrointestinal disease (67%), as well as those who are overweight or obese (69%). Data showing greater effectiveness of the medication would motivate 72 percent of mental health patients, 67 percent of cancer patients, 67 percent of cardiovascular patients and 70 percent of those who have had surgery to pay for the costlier medication.
About the "Pulse of Online Health" Survey
Fielded in January 2015 to 1,015 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and older by Kelton, the Makovsky Health survey investigated consumers' behavior and preferences for engaging with online healthcare information. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
About Makovsky Health
Named "Healthcare Agency of the Year" by The Holmes Report, Makovsky Health is leading healthcare communications in its ongoing mission to improve the lives of patients served by biotech, pharmaceutical, wellness and device manufacturing companies. Makovsky campaigns have been recognized by industry peers as the "Best in Healthcare," "Best Education/Public Service Campaign" and "Best of the Best." To learn more about the agency, please visit www.makovsky.com.
Kelton is a research, strategy and design consultancy that works with many of the world's largest and most recognizable brands to help them better understand and connect with consumers. Kelton provides highly customized qualitative, quantitative, innovation and design research for a wide variety of companies across multiple sectors. For more information, please visit www.keltonglobal.com.
 Millennials (ages 18-34)