Pew Survey Finds Health Apps Are On The Rise Despite Low Usage
January 28, 2013

Pew Survey Finds Health Apps Are On The Rise Despite Low Usage

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new Pew Research Center survey shows that there is a surplus of smartphone health applications, but a lack of consumers using them.

The study found that only about seven percent of people surveyed used a smartphone app to track health, like weight, diet, and exercise routine or to monitor a chronic disease.

"There's still a low uptake in terms of apps and technology," lead researcher Susannah Fox told AFP. "It is surprising. We've been looking at health apps since 2010, and health app uptake has been essentially flat for three years."

Pew's latest research indicates that consumers are slow to start using smartphone technology as a way to manage health. However, there are plenty of applications available that help manage weight, and track blood pressure, pregnancy, blood sugar, diabetes or medication.

Some applications are aimed to only help keep track of calorie count, while others provide accountability for the goals you set. Apps like Nike Training Club are even available to help with at-home workout routines.

"There's a proliferation of choices, and consumers are being faced with a food court of options," Fox told AFP. "What we see is that consumers are losing their appetite."

Pew said 19 percent of smartphone owners have downloaded an app related to health. The study found that exercise, diet and weight features are the most popular types of health apps downloaded.

About 38 percent of those who use health applications on their smartphones track their exercise, while 31 percent monitor their diet, and 12 percent use it to help manage weight. Another one in seven adults surveyed track a health indicator like weight, diet or exercise routine for themselves or another person.

Half of those who said they track their health or symptoms said they keep track of progress "in their heads," while 21 percent said they use a form of technology to do so.

Pew found that 46 percent of those who track their health have changed their approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone they care for. Forty percent of the trackers said that doing so has led them to ask a doctor new questions, or to get a second opinion from another doctor.

Gary Wolf, a contributing editor at Wired magazine, predicts that one day, these health applications will be catching on.

"The frontier is always moving," he told USA Today. "Today, things that would have been considered very geeky a few years ago, like keeping track of what you eat on a computer, feel more normal."

Now, only time will tell whether these smart, wearable devices and applications catch the health bug, or whether they just remain stagnant.