Background: There is significant potential for mobile health technology to improve health outcomes for patients with chronic diseases. However, there is a need for further development of mobile health technology that would help to improve the health of lower-income communities.
Objective: The study objective was to assess mobile phone and app usage among a culturally diverse patient population, and to determine whether patients would be interested in using mobile health technology to help manage their chronic diseases.
Methods: An observational study was conducted with patients of the Internal Medicine resident primary care clinics of Los Angeles County and University of Southern California (LAC+USC) Medical Center. Self-reported information regarding demographics, current mobile phone usage, current mobile health app and social media usage, barriers to using mobile phones or mobile health apps, and interest in using a mobile health app was collected.
Results: Ninety-one percent of patients owned a mobile phone, with 76% (169/223) of these reporting having a mobile phone with Internet capability. Fifty-seven percent of subjects used mobile apps on their mobile phones, and 32% (41/130) of these used mobile apps related to their health. Eighty-six percent (207/241) of respondents voiced interest in using a mobile app to improve their health, and 40% (88/221) stated they would use such an app daily. Patients stated they would find the mobile health app most useful for nutrition, exercise, and obtaining general information on medical conditions.
Conclusions: Despite the fact that the majority of our primary care patients were of lower socioeconomic status, they utilized mobile phones with Internet and mobile app capabilities to a great extent. There was substantial interest among our patients in using mobile health technology to both manage chronic disease and improve overall health. Given that cultural, educational, and socioeconomic disparities strongly correlate with higher rates of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, access to culturally relevant mobile health tools may empower patients in these populations to improve health outcomes.
Keywords: Mobile health applications; mobile health technology; telemedicine.