Reaching today’s mobile health consumer

Often when people talk about mobile health, they focus on attention-getting gadgets like Apple watches and wearable tech. But there are many other ways mobile technology is changing the way consumers interact with the healthcare system. For instance, let’s look at some trends in smartphone usage according to most recent Pew Internet fact sheet on Americans and their smartphones. What do these trends mean for healthcare payers?


Smartphone ownership is increasing rapidly


You probably didn’t need to see a study to know that. But what may surprise you is the number of older Americans using smartphones. Ownership among the 50-64 age group now tops 54% and is growing rapidly. Overall, 64% of U.S. adults own a smartphone.


What it means for payers:

Payers who serve an older population might think their members don’t care about mobile apps and mobile-optimized websites. That’s far from the truth. Those tech-savvy Baby Boomers will expect and demand mobile access to their benefits and claims.


Smartphones are the only Internet link for some


Lacking broadband options at home and work, a significant number of Americans rely on their smartphones to access the Internet. For example, 13% of U.S. adults with an annual household income of less than $30,000 are considered “smartphone dependent.”


What it means for payers:

You cannot assume that members will have a way to access the desktop version of your site – especially if your membership tends to be young, Latino, African-American, or low-income (the four groups more likely to be smartphone dependent). Because this issue affects a disproportionate number of low-income Americans, it is especially important for payers who have a Medicaid line of business.


Texting is the most popular smartphone activity


In the Pew Research survey, 97% of smartphone owners reported they had used text messaging on their phone in the past week. That number far outranks the number reporting usage of email (88%) and the phone’s camera (60%).


What it means for payers:

Text messaging is an untapped opportunity for digital engagement. The benefits of communicating via texting are worth the effort. For example, a recent study showed how text messaging intervention helped patients reduce their cholesterol, blood pressure, and BMI. If it’s too difficult to acquire cell phone numbers and get opt-ins, consider using mobile app push notifications instead.


Americans are looking up health information online


In the Pew Research survey, 62% of smartphone owners reported that they had looked up information about a health condition on their phone in the past year. That’s more than the number who looked up real estate information or job information.


What it means for payers:

When members are facing a health issue, they start doing research online – and many use their phones to do so. Whatever resources you offer to help with healthcare decisions, ensure they work on mobile.


For more details about how members use mobile to interact with their health plan, check out the AmeriHealth case study.




Mike Gordon is the Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Healthx. He has more than 23 years of software and information technology experience, with extensive expertise in product development for healthcare payer organizations.