Online health information viewed as life-saving for one in 10 Americans

We may be in the foundational stage of the mHealth evolution, but newly released research reveals a bedrock base of consumer reliance on web-based health information. According to a U.S. survey commissioned by Royal Philips Electronics, 11 percent of Americans believe that if they did not have access to web-based health information, "they might be dead or severely incapacitated."

Opinion Research Corporation conducted the survey for Philips. It gathered responses from a sample of 1,003 adults (503 men and 500 women), ages 18 years and older, living in the continental United States. Data were weighted to be nationally representative.

Additional findings from the survey:

  • A quarter of those surveyed use symptom-checker websites or home-based diagnosis technology as much as they visit the doctor.
  • Another 27 percent use interactive applications instead of going to the doctor.
  • Forty-one (41) percent said they were comfortable using websites to check their health symptoms.
  • About half of Americans (49 percent) are comfortable with symptom-checker technologies or home-based vital sign monitors automatically sharing information with their doctor, and more than one-third of those surveyed believe technology that allows one to monitor his/her own health is now the key to living a long life.

“We are in the early stages of the web-enabled, mHealth, mobile app world of healthcare delivery. Near-future apps will focus on tying together health information technologies, connecting with doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals and patients, all within a social context that facilitates shared medical decision-making,” said Eric Silfen, MD, chief medical officer of Philips Healthcare, in a press release accompanying the survey results. “This evolution will harken the new vital signs of the clinical times with technologies that help prevent medical errors, lower the financial and social cost of care, sustain a higher quality of medical practice and support an evidence-based standard for medicine in general. Ultimately, the technological undercurrents of the post-PC world -- the power of many, designer gadgets, cloud ecosystems and mobile app computing -- will hasten the personalization and partnerships that will transform sustainable medical care to the highest quality.”

Philips predicts smart devices will enable ease of access and care anywhere. For example, custom web portals such as Philips’ CarePartners mobile app will transport patients, families, doctors and nurses into a secure, virtual space to coordinate long-term medical services, according to the company. In addition, personal health books will serve as a compendium of an individual’s confidential health information, where they can update and manage the personal, medical and social facets of their care, as well as their beliefs, values and preferences to guide how care will be provided, reported Philips.

The company said the development of healthcare technology solutions that combine superior clinical expertise with deep human insights will help people cultivate stronger connections between themselves, their families and their physicians. Silfen predicts the accessibility, portability and ease of use afforded by mobile apps will best leverage personally actionable health information, and help extend technologies out to the entire continuum of care.