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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Memphis Study Examines Use of Mobile Health Applications among U.S. Adult Populations

A study led by Dr. Soumitra Bhuyan, an assistant professor of Health Systems Management and Policy at the School of Public Health and Research Fellow at the Methodist LeBonheur Center for Healthcare Economics, The University of Memphis examined the use of mobile health applications (mHealth apps) among the U.S. adult population. The study further investigated the respondents’ attitude towards helpfulness of mHealth apps for achieving health behavior goals, medical care decision-making, and asking a physician new questions or seeking a second opinion. The study results suggest that among adults who had smartphones or tablets, 36 percent had mHealth apps on their devices. Among those with apps, 60 percent reported helpfulness of mHealth apps in achieving health behavior goals, 35 percent reported their helpfulness for medical care decision-making, and 38 percent reported their usefulness in asking their physicians new questions or seeking a second opinion.

Dr. Soumitra Bhuyan
[Photo: Dr. Soumitra Bhuyan]

The study found that certain individual characteristics are associated with having mHealth apps on smartphones or tablets, and of the helpfulness of the apps to accomplish health-related tasks, but there is no uniformity across the sub-groups of the population with regards to the usefulness of mHealth apps. Dr. Cyril Chang, a professor of economics and director of the Methodist LeBonheur Center for Healthcare Economics at the University of Memphis and a co-author of this study noted that, “concepts such as the digital divide often infer that differences in utilization reflect “barriers” to use. But the inconsistent pattern of use shown in our study suggests that a difference in use may be caused more by personal need or preference than by a barrier.”

The study uses nationally representative data from the cycle 4 of the fourth edition of the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS 4), which is a national health information data collection program administered by the National Cancer Institute. For the first time, this cycle of the survey included questions on the use of mHealth apps. The nationally representative sample of this study addresses the issue of generalizability that existed due to the paucity of nationally representative data in previous studies.

The findings from this study were published online in the June issue of the Journal of Medical Systems

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