Now Reading: Mobile Access 2010 (Pew Internet and American Life Project)



What’s not to like in this yet-another-useful-guide-to-what-comes-next by the Pew Internet and American Life project. In order to fully appreciate this space, you also have to read the Teens and Mobile Phones report as well. Hint: teens are not into talking on the phone.

In the meantime, the theme of examining different groups’ use of mobile has been expanded and given the emphasis it deserves, in my opinion. Look at this (graphics by me based on the data):

Americans’ Access to the Internet: 2010


Thanks, Ted, this is my favorite of our recent reports because it does place mobile squarely in the center (which is where it is in so many people's lives).

Since I spend so much of my time thinking about communications and information, mobile has become almost an obsession – it is the always-on, always-with-you solution for… well, for what? Certainly for quick messages between individuals, for status updates on social network sites, for maps & directions, for answering on-the-go questions. In the health care realm, I see lots of potential for appointment making, medication reminders, and symptom tracking. But the mobile apps I have seen seem to be accessories, appetizers, not the main course. Is that enough for now? To develop at the edges and see what happens?

Dear Susannah,

Well you and colleagues at the Pew Internet & American Life Project have done a fine job of putting that obsession into tangible products! And, once again, how great is Web 2.0 when you can write something about a piece of work that you admire and the people behind it can actually comment….

What I noticed in the data, and maybe to your point, is that with what's being discovered about mobile, it's not 100% clear that the people you survey are saying, "and I am happy to have my doctor in that message stream." In other words, would health care messages be welcomed in those updates, personal texts back-and-forth, or do people want things related to health to be in the walled garden of an App? And given that App use is still relatively low (compared to text messaging), would the advent of useful health care messaging/transactions grow that pie, again, relative to texting (and photo-taking, as the report points out), which is the overwhelming majority of mobile data use right now,



I just reviewed some proprietary research – not published publicly, sent to me by an insider who wanted to get my take – which showed that most employees do not want their employers to reach them with health messages via text messages, nor via social network sites. In that research, uptake for those activities was strong (esp among younger adults) but most people see text/SNS as personal space.

My mobile mood was also darkened by a conversation I had recently with someone who is very plugged in to the traditional health care system. He said that the only hope for mobile (or really, health IT innovation) to go wide (beyond KP or GroupHealth) is if it solves a big problem for health care execs. Mobile can't be a stand-alone, was his point, but an extension of a bigger project.

That's why I was interested to see the news this a.m. (via Craig DeLarge, aka @cadelarge) that another insurer, HealthPartners, is extending mobile services to its members:

I don't want to appear to be a weathervane on this, but rather an optimistic realist looking over the horizon. Thanks so much for the forum to talk about what our research means.



No need to be dark, be light – this is the #epicenter! You and I tend to occupy the Realist-Optimist and on occasion, Transparent Evangelist archetype, don't we?

Your comment is actually an analogy for all of health care – "unless it solves a problem for health care execs" needs to become "unless it solves a problem for citizens." I see a lot of mourning for why this technology or that technology doesn't take off, and you remind me that the mourning is not over the new glitzy technology, it's over the idea that maybe patients/citizens weren't the ones to decide it didn't have value.

So, thanks back, for the inside info – we should explore more about how much of the feeling about mobile is transatable to health care – and the information in general, that changes the equation around who this is important to,


Ted Eytan, MD