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Acad Emerg Med. 2015 Jun;22(6):765-8. doi: 10.1111/acem.12675. Epub 2015 May 21.

Use of mobile apps: a patient-centered approach.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Penn Medicine Social Media and Health Innovation Lab, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Center for Injury Research and Prevention, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.
Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.



This study explored what smartphone health applications (apps) are used by patients, how they learn about health apps, and how information about health apps is shared.


Patients seeking care in an academic ED were surveyed about the following regarding their health apps: use, knowledge, sharing, and desired app features. Demographics and health information were characterized by summary statistics.


Of 300 participants, 212 (71%) owned smartphones, 201 (95%) had apps, and 94 (44%) had health apps. The most frequently downloaded health apps categories were exercise 46 (49%), brain teasers 30 (32%), and diet 23 (24%). The frequency of use of apps varied as six (6%) of health apps were downloaded but never used, 37 (39%) apps were used only a few times, and 40 (43%) health apps were used once per month. Only five apps (2%) were suggested to participants by health care providers, and many participants used health apps intermittently (55% of apps ≤ once a month). Participants indicated sharing information from 64 (59%) health apps, mostly within social networks (27 apps, 29%) and less often with health care providers (16 apps, 17%).


While mobile health has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, use of health apps among our sample was low. The most commonly used apps were those that had broad functionality, while the most frequently used health apps encompassed the topics of exercise, diet, and brain teasers. While participants most often shared information about health apps within their social networks, information was less frequently shared with providers, and physician recommendation played a small role in influencing patient use of health apps.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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