Poll shows all ages seek digital health tools

Gil Bashe, EVP, Makovsky
Gil Bashe, EVP, Makovsky

Americans are into digital health — so much so that communications firm Makovsky and research firm Kelton found that 66% of poll participants are willing to use a mobile app to manage their health.


Some additional data bites: 88% said they'd be OK sharing their information if it would improve their care and treatment options, and 79% said they would snap on a wearable to manage their health.


Although the report indicates that the 18 to 35 Millennial age group is more than twice as likely to be interested in digital health than the 66-and-older set, the results show that digital engagement is not so much about life-stage as it is about condition.


“There are so many illnesses that are not age-specific,” Makovsky EVP Gil  Bashe says, noting that younger and older patients are looking for digital support for conditions including cardiovascular health, diabetes and cancer.


“The other piece is that no matter what age you are, you are likely to be willing to use technology to improve your health . . . and it doesn't matter if they're over 60 or under 30. That is essentially across the board,” Afshin Mohamadi, Kelton's VP and managing director, added.

 


Age does, however, play into which information sources and platforms patients trust. Neither Millennials nor baby boomers, for example, have faith in social media messaging. The Makovsky/Kelton survey showed that younger patients are more likely than baby boomers to trust a pharmaceutical company's website, and younger users are less likely to rely on a doctor's recommendation to prompt a visit to a pharma website, whereas 66% of older patients would click on the site if it were recommended by a physician. Ads were also more effective in getting Millennials to visit a corporate site than older web users.


Bashe notes that corporate sites also have a built-in appeal for diagnosed patients when they provide tools that support patients, such as co-pay cards. Bashe notes that this engagement works because the user sees an immediate value, a component that he and Mohamadi say is critical when determining what kind of digital tools and outreach make sense.


For example, Bashe notes that wearables — which typically live outside the sock drawer for about six months — can and should be about managing larger health concerns instead of monitoring a single metric if the goal is to create health-management tools patients (and their doctors) can rely on and stick with.


“When it was just steps, it was whatever, ‘I think I walked a lot.' Do I need to wear a bracelet for that? Probably not,” Bashe said.


But, if a  doctor can use the information wearables and apps to reveal trends like how and if a patient's weight has been fluctuating, Bashe said this fusion of tools and information can become a feedback loop that can be used to outline a care plan..


Linking information to action can also be used as a framework for how the health industry can think about content. If the action is there, tools like games and rewards for engaging with the content can work, but Bashe and Mohamadi said the value of the information has to come through.


The survey also showed that actionable information can also be pretty straightforward. Makovsky and Kelton found that comparative information would persuade 56% of polled Millennials and 45% of consumers aged 66 and older to shell out $30 to cover a new medication's co-pay if the evidence indicated it was better than a lower-tier, $10 copay medication.


Both age groups said information about side effects, effectiveness, doctor recommendation and easier dosing would help seal the deal.