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Loss of interest, hidden costs drive away users of mHealth apps

Getting Americans with smartphones to use mobile applications to monitor their health isn’t a difficult accomplishment, as a majority of them have already downloaded one. Getting them to stick with one mHealth app over a long-term period isn’t as straightforward because many of them have found non-performance related reasons to stop using mHealth apps.

More than 58% of respondents to a survey published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) mHealth and uHealth said they used an mHealth app to track an aspect of their health, such as their physical activity or to track their diets. There was a notable amount of dissatisfaction among that group,; with roughly 46% saying they stopped using an app they previously downloaded.

Surprisingly, unstable or poor performance of apps weren’t major reasons why users moved on to something else or gave up mHealth tracking entirely. In explaining their frustration, 36% cited hidden costs and more than 40% pointed to a loss of interest in an app as the reasons why they ceased using it. Only a third took issue with the effectiveness of their rejected apps, finding them too complicated to navigate. Nearly half of respondents who said they discontinued using an app did so because it took them too much time to enter data, a problem that could be blamed on poor design or the inexperience or impatience of the users.

Nearly 42% never downloaded an mHealth app. Those respondents’ primary reasons for not doing so were a lack of interest in the available apps, concerns over the costs of the apps and the apps’ ability to protect their personal data.

A panel at the recent Connected Health Symposium 2015 in Boston discussed the growth of mHealth apps and devices and cautioned that wireless technology alone won’t improve people’s health. The panel was encouraged by the advancement of wearable tech. If the JMIR survey is truly a microcosm of the consumer healthcare market, mHealth app developers should be focused on engaging current users to keep their business and not on building more powerful products.