A recent survey by Research Now Group, a market research company based in Texas, sought to determine the usage of mobile health apps and their potential in healthcare.

The survey focused on some key issues including the use of smartphones by healthcare professionals in their clinical work, whether health care professionals find this technology beneficial for patients and for which types of patients, and the types of health apps used commonly and how users feel about the use of this technology for their health.

The survey included 1,000 healthcare professionals and 2,000 smartphone owners who indicated that they used mobile health apps. Half of the survey participants were from the United States and half from the United Kingdom. The survey occurred from January 9, 2015 to January 22, 2015.

One of the key findings illustrated is that 86% of those surveyed believe health apps will increase what doctors know about their patients. The use of apps by patients to record health related data appears to have appeal to health professionals as a useful data source. Among healthcare professionals, 76% believe that patients with chronic disease will be helped the most by mobile health apps. In addition, 61% of health professionals believe patients with rising health risks will benefit from mobile health apps.

The majority (55%) also believe that apps have the potential to help people who are already healthy. In a similar vein, 72% believe that mobile health apps will increase the amount of responsibility patients have for their own health.  Overall, health professionals appear to view mobile health apps positively and are particularly optimistic about the role of mobile health apps as a prevention tool and data source for patients who need to monitor their conditions over time.

The survey’s findings for mobile health app users indicated that 96% of them think health apps improve their quality of life. This is an impressive number agreeing on the positive benefits of apps and bodes well for the use of this technology among patients. By contrast, only 37% of health professionals believe they will improve their patients’ lives. This striking discrepancy may reflect a more common disconnect between healthcare professionals and their patients – while we are often focused on the control of disease, patients are particularly interested in the downstream effects on their day to day lives.

Mobile health app users, somewhat predictably, tend to use the apps for weight loss and exercise with 60% using apps for monitoring activity and workouts. Less than the majority (30%) used apps to monitor existing health conditions or to remind them to take medication (29%). For consumers, just as for health care professionals, the power of mobile health apps seems to be as a tool for prevention with the greatest focus on health behaviors.

The findings of the survey are a useful step forward towards better understanding of health professional and consumer views of mobile health apps. This information can be useful for developers of mobile health apps and also for various entities – such as hospitals and insurance companies – to consider how to use these apps to improve the health of patients. And the disconnect between how patients and healthcare professionals impact quality of life reminds us that we need to frame our interventions in the practical impact they will have on what our patients actually experience.