You Are Wasting Your Time Making Social Media Apps and Platforms for The Chronically Ill

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn at HealthPopuli disects a recent Pew Study Chronic Disease and the Internet “The Diagnosis Difference“. Sarasohn-Kahn analysis and comments are spot on and clearly have the economists feel which is clear and to the point.

So top line, people with chronic illness even one will seek information online, participate in peer to peer social media to understand reviews on drugs/treatments and learn from other patients. BUT wait for it. Chronically ill patients are less likely to have internet access because they are older and less educated. They are not on par knowledge wise with other US adults regarding information and tech adoption. That’s a problem. 

The Pew study which those who are ill with internet access become more engage with their health and share that information with HCP at a higher rate than those without a chronic illness. The will self track  ADL, meds, etc. It works for them since they identify that this activity makes a difference on their health or those they are caring for. See the chart on the HealthPopuli. 

You’ve all seen this before, 70% of all adults look online for health information. And those with 2 or more chronic conditions are more likely to seek information at a rate of 62% vs. 52% when compared to those with no chronic condition. Here is a chart from HealthPopuli post:

There are large differences in health information seeking behaviors in chronically ill vs. healthy people especially for:

  • Specific medical treatments (53% vs. 41%)
  • A drug you saw advertised (20% vs. 13%)
  • Drug safety or recalls (21% vs. 15%)
  • Medical test results (18% vs. 13%), among others.

To fully appreciate the chronic condition category 1 in 4 US adults have at least one and 1 in 5 live with 2 or more. Here are the conditions that Pew listed.

  • High blood pressure, occurring among 25% of U.S. adults in the survey sample
  • Lung conditions, managed by 13% of U.S. adults in the forms of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung issues
  • Diabetes, among 11% of U.S. adults
  • Heart conditions, for 7% of U.S. adults (e.g., heart disease, heart failure, or heart attack)
  • Cancer, among 3% of the adult population, and
  • Other chronic conditions, for 16% of U.S. adults.

Sarasohn-Kahn makes the following points

  • Those with serious chronic conditions seek information (Think adult learning and how people seek solutions to problems they have.)
  • Most people do not self-track health via digital which enables behavioral changes and better outcomes
  • Active seekers of health information who self-track cost less. See this link here.

Ya gotta love an economist because Sarasohn-Kahn point to three links that offer health apps and phones. This is the supply side. They are:

TracFone and VoxivaThe Commonwealth Fund has paper on creating provider patient partnerships, finally NEHI shares eleven apps that offer ways to manage chronic illness.

The bigger issue is the demand side where Pew reports that few people take advantage of these tools.

This is a very important analysis of the Pew data and is something that we must solve going forward in order to change outcomes or at least improve patient care. The SM cognoscenti keep talking about how SM is the ultimate tool in our healthcare tool box. What in fact we need to do is identify this and build strategies that solve the problem. We don’t need more apps or platforms. We need answers and subsequent strategies. I still believe it is not WebMD but MyMD where true learning and knowledge occurs for both patient and HCP.

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