1 in 5 Cell Users Looks Up Health Info

October 20, 2010

Seventeen percent of US cell phone users have looked up health and/or medical information with their mobile device, according to new data from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Younger Cell Phone Users More Likely to Look Up Health Info
Looking up health information via cell phone is evenly performed between men (17%) and women (16%). Blacks (19%) are slightly more likely than whites (15%) to use a cell phone for health information, but Hispanics (25%) are the ethnic group most likely to do so.


The most dramatic difference in usage of a cell phone to look up health information occurs between adults older and younger than 50. The 18-to-29 demographic has the highest rate of looking up health information via cell phone (29%), followed by 30-49 (18%). This rate drops dramatically among 50-to-64-year-olds (7%) and those 65 and older (8%).

The most interesting disparity in cell phone-based health information lookup happens when users are classified by education. Those who have completed some college have the highest rate (21%), slightly beating college graduates or more (20%). More surprisingly, those who have completed some high school (16%) are 33% more likely to look up health information with a cell phone than high school graduates (12%).

Urban residents (21%) are about twice as likely to look up health information via cell phone as rural residents (11%). Overall, 85% of adults use a cell phone.

Blacks, Young Most Likely to Use Mobile Health Apps
Demographic results are slightly different for use of mobile health applications. Blacks (15%) are more likely to use them than Hispanics (11%) or whites (7%). Mobile health app usage also skews very young, with 18-to-29-year-olds having a rate (15%) about twice as high as the next-most-likely generation, 30-to-49-year-olds (8%).


Educationally, those who have completed some college (13%) are substantially more likely to use mobile health apps than any other educational group, doubling the rate of high school graduates (6%).

In other significant disparities, English-speakers (9%) have a rate of using mobile health applications nine times that of Spanish-speakers (1%), and the rate of urban residents (12%) is three times that of rural residents (4%).

Wireless Access Makes a Difference
Pew analysis indicates 57% of American adults have a wireless connection and use a laptop or a cell phone to access the internet. The “mobile difference,” which Pew Internet first identified in 2009, is the observation that once someone has a wireless device, that person is more likely to use the internet to gather information, share information and create new content. These patterns are beginning to emerge in Americans’ pursuit of health information on mobile devices as well as traditional wired computers.

This survey finds that 78% of wireless internet users have looked online for health information, compared with 70% of internet users with desktop access and 59% of all American adults.

Remote/Mobile Health Interest Grows
Findings from the recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers “Healthcare Unwired” study indicate that consumers are gaining interest in remote and mobile health technology. For example, 40% of Americans would be willing to pay for a remote monitoring device and a monthly subscription that would send data automatically to their doctor health information such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and weight.

Another 40% of consumers said they would be willing to pay for a device and a monthly subscription fee for a mobile phone application that would send text and email reminders to take their medications, refill prescriptions or to access their medical records and track their health.


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