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Survey: 59% of digital health users have chronic conditions

Survey: 59% of digital health users have chronic conditions

Consumers insured after the Affordable Care Act's expanded coverage in 2014 are sicker and costlier healthcare patients than previous generations, according to a new report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). HealthMine surveyed 500 insured consumers to discover that 59 percent suffer from a chronic condition, but only 7 percent of them are using a disease management tool, while 50 percent use a fitness/activity tracker device or app. Moreover, 52 percent of respondents are enrolled in a wellness program, and 33 percent received their health device/app from their wellness program.

HealthMine's survey respondents suffered from a range of chronic conditions, with mental illness, chronic pain and obesity among the most common:

Chronic Condition*Percent
Mental illness (depression, anxiety, etc.)18%
Chronic back, shoulder and/or neck pain18%
Obesity18%
Oral Health (cavities, gum disease)14%
Heart disease/hypertension/high blood pressure13%
Diabetes or pre-diabetes12%
Autoimmune disease (Arthritis, lupus, IBD, MS, Crohn's, etc.)9%
Pulmonary disease (Asthma, COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, etc.)7%
Eye disorder (macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, etc.)6%
Eating disorder6%
Osteoporosis5%
Cancer (prostate, colon, breast, ovarian, etc.)3%
Alzheimer's/dementia1%
Other5%
No, I do not have a chronic condition41%

* Total percentage exceeds 100% because many respondents have more than one chronic condition.

Respondents also utilized one or more digital health apps and tools, with activity trackers and nutrition apps among the most popular:

Digital Health Tool*Percent
Fitness/exercise/pedometer app50%
Food/nutrition app46%
Weight loss app39%
Wearable activity tracker (Fitbit, Jawbone, Apple Watch, etc.)38%
Heart rate app30%
Pharmacy app28%
Patient portal22%
Sleep app22%
Blood pressure app19%
Smart/wireless scale16%
Stress app15%
Symptoms navigator14%
Medication tracker14%
Mood/emotional well-being app14%
Price comparison app for prescription drugs11%
Price comparison app for medical/provider services10%
Blood glucose monitor9%
Internet connected thermometer8%
Disease management app7%
Smoking cessation app6%
Telemedicine app5%
Other1%

* Total percentage exceeds 100% because many respondents have more than one digital health tool.

When individuals who are enrolled in a wellness program are asked: "what is the biggest motivator to use these technology tools?", the number one answer (42%) was "knowledge of my numbers," while 10 percent said incentives are their biggest motivator to use digital health. However, when asked if incentives motivated users to use their digital health tools more frequently, 91% said yes.

Biggest Motivator To Use Digital Health ToolsPercent
Knowledge--I know my numbers42%
Improving my health--It helps me manage my condition/reach my health goals26%
Accountability--I know someone is tracking the results19%
Incentive--I know I can earn a reward for using it10%
Nothing--I am not really motivated to use it3%

"Digital health tools have exploded in growth — but more so in the lifestyle management category than in clinical/disease management," Bryce Williams, CEO and President of HealthMine, said in a statement. "Every member may not benefit from an activity tracker. For these tools to be effective, they must be tailored to individual needs and connect to the individual's bigger picture of health data."

The HealthMine Survey queried 500 consumers who use mobile and/or Internet-connected health applications/devices and are enrolled in a 2016 health plan. The survey was fielded by Survey Sampling International (SSI) in March of 2016. The margin of error is 4 percent.

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