A recent ePatient survey of around 11,000 patients in Germany, Austria and Switzerland found that:
- 80% of patients found apps relatively easy to use
- Almost 20% of patients had used an app for a year or longer
- 77% of patients would discuss with their doctor a change of therapy recommended by an app “from a trustworthy source”.
Surveying app use
Each year, Berlin-based research organisation ePatient-rsd runs a survey into how patients use digital health.
In March and April, 11,000 patients took part in the survey in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
It found that:
- around 70% of app users were willing to “donate” their personal health and disease data for research purposes
- tracking and motivation features in apps are increasingly popular
- apps for health coaching and “second opinions” recorded the fastest growth
- the number of clinically-evaluated apps was still very low.
Most patients found apps easy to use
Around 80% of patients found apps relatively easy to use:
“Question: How easy was it to use them?
- 40% – It was easy right from the start
- 40% – With a little patience I was making good progress
- 7% – It took me quite a while…until I was making use of them properly
- 6% – It was difficult for me to use them
- 7% – I wasn’t able to use them at all – somebody had to help me.”
Looking at who had the most difficulty, the survey confirmed that digital literacy remains a key issue for some groups:
“Older and less educated audiences show lower digital skills and competence levels”.
Around a fifth of patients found an app to stick with
Although most patients had not used an app for longer than a few months, around a fifth had found an app that they used for a year or longer:
“Question: What was the longest period of time in which you used the same app…?”
- 43% – a few days
- 20.1% a few weeks
- 17.4% a few months
- 19.4% a year or longer.
As the survey observes, the data are “actually quite positive” when compared with other studies.
Balancing app and doctor recommendations
In the survey, if patients trusted the source of the app, over three quarters said they would discuss its treatment recommendations with their doctor:
“Question: Let’s say an app or online program from a trustworthy source/publisher recommends you try a therapy that’s different from the one you are using now…What would you do?
- 77% – I discuss the recommendations with my doctor in order to understand what he thinks
- 12% – I fully ignore the recommendations given by the app and only follow the directions of my doctor
- 8% – I don’t discuss the recommendations with my current doctor, but look for another doctor
- 3% – I follow the recommendations given by the app or online program.”
The balancing factor here is whether there is something about the healthcare cultures and systems in Germany, Austria and Switzerland that influences how willing patients are to take the app’s recommendations up with their doctor. However, it does raise interesting implications for the power and decision-making dynamic in what is now potentially a three-way relationship: doctor-patient-app.
Want to find out more information, in German, on the 2017 ePatient survey?