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implications of pew mobile health study on employee wellness communications

November 15, 2010

in communication,mobile health,wellness

i need a health app. so said a client.

why? i asked.

some employees are asking for them.

mobile health apps are the new sexy. their explosion is fueled, of course, by the growth in smartphones overall; the interest in their use as a health tool driven by the knowledge that mobile health facilitates health engagement.

does that make health apps the place to put your limited benefits communication budget? the pew mobile health 2010 study found that 9% of cell phone users have downloaded a health app onto their phone (any phone, not just a smartphone). by and large, this 9% is younger, african american and has some college education. they’re also english language speakers and live in an urban setting.

nine percent isn’t small potatoes, as brian dolan at mobihealth news writes. but it’s not massive, either. and depending on your workforce demographics, not too many of that 9% may work for your company. this doesn’t mean health apps should be ignored. you should find ways to incorporate them into your communication strategy:

  • seek health partners who offer them.
  • review health apps in your print or online vehicles.
  • invite employees to act as citizen journalists and research and write about their favorites.
  • buy health apps for employees to test.

by doing any of this, you’d get a sense of how your workforce responds to and uses health apps, making you smarter by the time adoption rates are higher and greater evidence of their effectiveness is available.

what i wouldn’t do is make them the first place to spend your hard-fought communication dollar. instead, put that money toward getting your benefits information on the internet, adapting your most sought-after information for mobile access and exploring ways to make your information social. while health apps are beguiling, resist their sirens’ call a little longer and get the basics in place.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles Falls November 19, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I find it amazing that many hospitals even think of creating an app when they don’t even have mobile websites. While your stats are very accurate regarding the percentage who download health apps, what you’re missing is that few of those 9% even use the one they download.
I see apps for emergency room wait times. Why? Unless you use the ER often, who would even remember they have an app for this when the time comes to go?

Before even thinking about an app, hospitals should think about mobile websites.


fran November 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm

i’d hope an ER wait time app is a once and done type of app! and yes, i quite agree with you. i find it remarkable that insurance companies are only now making critical parts of their service (network provider directory!) available on a mobile site.



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