American consumers are now viewing their phones an average of 52 times daily, with 39 percent of consumers believing they use their smartphones too much. In fact, 60 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds admit to smartphone overuse, the highest level of any age group. However, 63 percent of the respondents reported trying to limit their smartphone usage, roughly half succeeding in cutting back. Smartphones also are helping blur the lines between work and leisure with 70 percent of respondents using personal smartphones at least occasionally for after-hours work.

Furthermore, voice technologies are “making noise,” according to Deloitte in A New Era in Mobile Continues, the 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: US Edition.

I’ve mined the US data of this global survey to divine insights for health/care. First and foremost among these is the growth of smartphone adoption across all age groups. Quite recently, health-tech app developers were frustrated by lack of smartphone penetration among older people — lots of the very folks who could benefit from self-tracking data that can be useful for managing chronic conditions. Eight in 10 people 65 and older have multiple chronic conditions, and 50% of people 45-64 do, as well.  which 1 in 2 U.S. adults over 55 manage. [I discussed that important public health/economic challenge here in Health Populi from a RAND report.].

Note in the first bar chart that in 2018, 89% of those 45-54 and 74% of people 55 and over have “ready access” to a smartphone. That’s one barrier overcome to get smartphone health apps into the hands of people dealing with the many tasks involved with managing chronic disease. It’s not the only barrier, and not a panacea; but it’s an important one in terms of a potential on-ramp to self-health tools.

Now look at the second chart: this inventories consumers’ interests in using different technology devices for various online activities. You’ll see a lot of blue fill signifying peoples’ preference for using a phone for these various tasks — from checking social networks to reading the news and watching short videos. Only people over 65 prefer desktop computers for a few of these tasks, otherwise the phone dominates the task-map.

A third data point Deloitte raises that are germane to healthcare deals with privacy and consumers’ concerns about how companies treat personal data. This study found that most Americans are fairly or very concerned about sharing their data with companies, as well as how companies use and store consumers’ personal data. This gets to transparency, regarding how these companies communicate privacy policies to users; and, for health care, this speaks to patients’ concerns about their healthcare privacy. Many personal information flows don’t fall under the HIPAA umbrella if the company isn’t a business associate.

Furthermore, this week Google made news about how it will absorb the DeepMind AI business into the larger Google Health unit. Some analysts and privacy lawyers question how Google will handle patients’ (assumed private) health data, a volatile question for the UK’s National Health Service as I draft this post.

The growth of wearable devices, a fourth data point in the Deloitte report, relates to consumer-generated data that can be very useful for health (privacy aside for now).

In 2018, one in five U.S. consumers used a fitness band, 14% a smartwatch, and 8% a virtual reality (VR) headset, shown in the third chart. Note the ten percent decline in use of fitness bands. This may be due to marginally more consumers using phones for tracking activities as the phones get better equipped with smarter sensors with more utility. Mic Locker, managing director in Deloitte’s  Technology, Media & Telecommunications practice, noted a bright spot for wearables: that daily usage is growing for owners of fitness bands and smartwatches. So those who continue to use these devices are doing so more regularly.

The uptick in smartwatches may be due to their tighter integration with smartphones, boosting utility and value, Locker wrote me. On the other hand, fitness band adoption may be slipping due to consumers’ greater use of both smartwatches integrating fitness features and greater use of phones for health applications.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  A new study from Weber Shandwick and KRC asked a question that speaks to consumers’ trust and willingness to engage with different sources of health information. The bottom-line, no surprise to those of us who annually follow the Gallup Poll on Americans’ perceptions of the most honest and ethical professions: that most U.S. adults are most satisfied with healthcare information they receive through nurses and physician’s assistants, as well as eye doctors, pharmacists, dentists, nurse practitioners, doctors, and dietitians/nutritionists.

These are the clinical professionals who spend the most time with patients. They are licensed, trained, and tested for service. They are, in my evolving concept of the health/care ecosystem, retail health’s front-line workers.

As digital health tools continue to be developed to go direct-to-consumer/patient, people will still look to the trusted human touchpoints in their personal health ecosystems for counsel and support. Some people will want or need a quick session on how to use a mobile app. Some patients will rely on videos, Khan Academy-style, for their DIYhealth tutoring. Other patients will look to clinicians to “prescribe” or otherwise recommend specific applications, some of which will be covered or subsidized by payors or health plans.

I’ll dive more deeply into the Weber Shandwick data tomorrow. In the meantime, Deloitte reminds us that the smartphone is most peoples’ personal health platform. This is something that Dr. John Mattison, Kaiser Permanente’s Chief Health Information Officer, taught me many years ago. Now, his forecast is mainstream.