Background: Consumer use of mobile devices as health service delivery aids (mHealth) is growing, especially as smartphones become ubiquitous. However, questions remain as to how consumer traits, health perceptions, situational characteristics, and demographics may affect consumer mHealth usage intentions, assimilation, and channel preferences.
Objective: We examine how consumers' personal innovativeness toward mobile services (PIMS), perceived health conditions, health care availability, health care utilization, demographics, and socioeconomic status affect their (1) mHealth usage intentions and extent of mHealth assimilation, and (2) preference for mHealth as a complement or substitute for in-person doctor visits.
Methods: Leveraging constructs from research in technology acceptance, technology assimilation, consumer behavior, and health informatics, we developed a cross-sectional online survey to study determinants of consumers' mHealth usage intentions, assimilation, and channel preferences. Data were collected from 1132 nationally representative US consumers and analyzed by using moderated multivariate regressions and ANOVA.
Results: The results indicate that (1) 430 of 1132 consumers in our sample (37.99%) have started using mHealth, (2) a larger quantity of consumers are favorable to using mHealth as a complement to in-person doctor visits (758/1132, 66.96%) than as a substitute (532/1132, 47.00%), and (3) consumers' PIMS and perceived health conditions have significant positive direct influences on mHealth usage intentions, assimilation, and channel preferences, and significant positive interactive influences on assimilation and channel preferences. The independent variables within the moderated regressions collectively explained 59.70% variance in mHealth usage intentions, 60.41% in mHealth assimilation, 34.29% in preference for complementary use of mHealth, and 45.30% in preference for substitutive use of mHealth. In a follow-up ANOVA examination, we found that those who were more favorable toward using mHealth as a substitute for in-person doctor visits than as a complement indicated stronger intentions to use mHealth (F₁,₇₀₂=20.14, P<.001) and stronger assimilation of mHealth (F₁,₇₀₂=41.866, P<.001).
Conclusions: Multiple predictors are shown to have significant associations with mHealth usage intentions, assimilation, and channel preferences. We suggest that future initiatives to promote mHealth should shift targeting of consumers from coarse demographics to nuanced considerations of individual dispositions toward mobile service innovations, complementary or substitutive channel use preferences, perceived health conditions, health services availability and utilization, demographics, and socioeconomic characteristics.
Keywords: adoption; consumer preferences; health information technology; mobile health; multivariate analyses.