Why Your Doctor Doesn’t Want You Using iPhone And iPad Health Apps

Why Your Doctor Doesn’t Want You Using iPhone And iPad Health Apps

Doctors are concerned about how mobile health apps and tech may empower patients.

Doctors may be fans of the iPad as a clinical tool, but they’re not certain that Apple’s iPad, the 5000+ health and medical apps in the App Store, or other mobile technologies are safe and effective health tools for patients. That’s the gist of a report by PwC Global Healthcare. The report was based on surveys of physicians, healthcare management professionals and payers, and mobile technology users in ten countries around the world.

According to the report, just under two-thirds (64%) of healthcare providers acknowledged that mobile technologies offer potential benefits for patients, but feel that mobile health (also known as mhealth) is virgin and untested territory. As a result, the majority of doctors (73%) don’t suggest iOS or mobile health apps to their patients and some (13%) even discourage patients from using them.

The reasons for not encouraging mobile health apps cover a variety of territory.

There’s the perception of cost, complexity, and scope of change associated with implementing mobile health solutions and an associated lack of technology systems in many healthcare environments. For example, the survey identified that only 40% of private practices and 63% of public sector offices and hospitals worldwide have wireless connectivity.

Concerns about how patients would use mobile health apps was a common reason for discouraging their use. That breaks down into a handful of issues, including patient compliance with health tools, the ability to ensure their proper use, and a concern that patients would become too independent and avoid regular office visits. That last concern appears to be a very valid point since 59% of mobile health users said iOS apps and other mobile technologies have replaced some visits to doctors or nurses.

Beyond patient use of health apps, concern about industry regulations was the biggest drawback to deploying mobile health solutions followed be the sense that healthcare, as an industry, has a particularly conservative culture. Those are areas that PwC’s Global Healthcare’s Christopher Wasden identified as different between as different between industrialized and developing countries.

The adoption of mobile health in emerging markets versus developed markets is a paradox. In developed markets, mHealth is perceived as disrupting the status quo, whereas in emerging countries it is seen as creating a new market, full of opportunity and growth potential. In younger, developing economies, healthcare is less constrained by healthcare infrastructure and entrenched interests. Consumers are more likely to use mobile devices and mHealth applications, and more payers are willing to cover the cost of mHealth services.

Other interesting points from the study include the following:

  • Health administrators and payers are more encouraging of mobile health solutions – 40% approve of such technologies compared to just 25% of doctors.
  • Two thirds of people who use health and fitness apps discontinue their use after six months (or earlier).
  • Roughly half the population expect mobile health options will improve the convenience (46%), cost (52%) and quality (48%) of healthcare.
  • Nearly half of those surveyed expect mobile apps will change the way they manage chronic conditions (48%), medications (48%) and overall health (49%).
  • 60% of consumers believe doctors are not as interested in mobile health options as patients and technology companies.
Related
  • Patrick M Phillips

    Speaking as an RN, I can tell you MOST doctors can’t stand when a patient is educated about their own health and therefore have opinions of their own based on their own research. They like to assume they’re always right and you should therefore shut up, do as they say, not question them, and dump your buckets of cash into they and their insurance company enablers’ pockets.

    Whether it be your diet, your child’s immunizations, the meds he prescribes you, or the diagnosis he gives you, EDUCATE YOURSELVES. Don’t make your doctor the gatekeeper of you or your child’s health.

  • Justin Gilbert

    Speaking as an RN, I can tell you MOST doctors can’t stand when a patient is educated about their own health and therefore have opinions of their own based on their own research. They like to assume they’re always right and you should therefore shut up, do as they say, not question them, and dump your buckets of cash into they and their insurance company enablers’ pockets.

    Whether it be your diet, your child’s immunizations, the meds he prescribes you, or the diagnosis he gives you, EDUCATE YOURSELVES. Don’t make your doctor the gatekeeper of you or your child’s health.

    You sir, speak the truth.

  • bernardlinde

    Speaking as an MD, I am quite disappointed at the nonsense written by Patrick M Phillips. We LIKE our patients begin educated as this improves understanding and also compliance with treatment etc. So by all means, bring on the apps, as long as the information contained in them are based on medical EVIDENCE. And unlike Mr Phillips might think – we ARE the gatekeepers of our patients’ health, and often we have to protect our patients (in my case children) against the (often) unproven, uncensored rubbish that parents read/hear from questionable sources. I did not spend 12 years at university to be told that I am not qualified to have a clue as to what it the best for my patient or to imply that I am some kind of quack trying to make money off patients. Casual self-education is not a substitute for medical school just as reading law books doesn’t make you a lawyer.

    I just wish that we could have more useable apps to help US with best care for patients.

  • the_bro

    Speaking as an MD, I am quite disappointed at the nonsense written by Patrick M Phillips. We LIKE our patients begin educated as this improves understanding and also compliance with treatment etc. So by all means, bring on the apps, as long as the information contained in them are based on medical EVIDENCE. And unlike Mr Phillips might think – we ARE the gatekeepers of our patients’ health, and often we have to protect our patients (in my case children) against the (often) unproven, uncensored rubbish that parents read/hear from questionable sources. I did not spend 12 years at university to be told that I am not qualified to have a clue as to what it the best for my patient or to imply that I am some kind of quack trying to make money off patients. Casual self-education is not a substitute for medical school just as reading law books doesn’t make you a lawyer.

    I just wish that we could have more useable apps to help US with best care for patients.

    I’m prepared to accept the fact that you are entitled to your opinion (a courtesy you’re apparently not prepared to extend to Mr. Phillips).

    What I would like to clarify however is that as your patient, you certainly would NOT be the gatekeeper to my health — that role belongs to ME and ME alone!
    Perhaps one could posit that because of your education/experience, you are a gatekeeper to the various health systems available in your locale — a role that one should fiercely protect, and understandably so since the financial rewards are pretty substantial.

  • dereknewell

    I don’t think it is black and white. Many doctors are very paternalistic and are intimidated (or just overwhelmed) by patient’s that are self educated. It is a lot of work for them to verify every source the patient comes to the office with. However, patients absolutely have to take the responsibility to self educate. They are absolutely the ones that have to be responsible for their health.

    Regarding health apps, it really is a “wild west” out there. There are many good apps, but there are also many bad ones. I would recommend that doctors review some of the apps that are relevant to a majority of their patients and specialty for their compliance with laws and the quality of the content. Then, they can recommend a few good ones (of which there are many), rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  • technochick

    I suspect the reason why many doctors don’t like these apps is because folks will self MIS diagnosis themselves. Either they will think they have some hideous condition when they don’t or worse they will think it’s nothing when it isn’t.

    Kind of like tech support people hating user boards because folks come in screaming about how they need this or that replaced because “I read on [enter web address] that this phone has a defect” when in fact it’s user stupidity, or their ISP sucks or some other reason”

    And then there’s the issue that many apps and websites have bad information. Either totally wrong or incomplete (which can be just as dangerous)

  • technochick

    I’m prepared to accept the fact that you are entitled to your opinion (a courtesy you’re apparently not prepared to extend to Mr. Phillips.

    1. Mr Philips was NOT expressing an opinion. He was stating what he wanted taken as a fact. And a very nasty one. Saying that doctors are nothing but egotists who want their patients to be stupid and gullible to make money off of them as is dangerous as some of the apps, sites and ‘reports’ available to people to ‘educate’ themselves.

    2. Have you ever looked up the definition of the word gatekeeper. If you had you would know that Mr Linde’s usage is in fact very correct and appropriate.

  • fdebong

    Having just published a level I medical device in the shape of an iPhone app in the EU (http://www.mysugr.com), I can vouch for problems regarding regulations. Hard to navigate, since the domain is rather new.

    In my experience though, working with practicing MD’s here in Austria, they love it.This is not meant to be advertising saying how cool we are – rather, the acceptance also among old school physicians is great. Maybe because we DO follow regulations and partner with universities, hospitals and researchers.

    Just stomping out an app and calling it mHealth is easy. Doing it responsibly is… not so easy, but doable.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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