This content is part of the Essential Guide: Conference coverage: 2013 mHealth Summit
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Study: Quantified self movement, Internet a boon for chronic care

A Pew Research Center study indicated chronic care patients use self-monitoring and social media to shape their care.

It turns out that nearly half of Americans (45%) suffer from one chronic condition or another, such as cancer, diabetes or asthma, according to a Pew Research Center survey of more than 3,000 adults, supported by the California HealthCare Foundation.

All this tracking, also known as 'quantified self,' is affecting outcomes positively.

That's probably no surprise to clinicians. What may be, however, is how these patients are now leveraging the Internet for reference, using social media sites to discuss their conditions and mHealth apps to monitor data points germane to their health, such as blood pressure, blood glucose, sleep patterns and other indicators.

On the eve of the 2013 mHealth Summitseveral data points in the survey will likely validate the efforts of the developers in attendance, or at least give them hope for the future:

  • Chronic care patients track indicators -- such as frequency of headaches, diet, exercise -- or take blood data more frequently. Sixty-one percent of respondents without chronic conditions said they track at least one of those indicators, as do 70% of those reporting one chronic condition; that number increases to 80% among those reporting more than one condition.
  • Of those who track a condition, 41% are still using pencil and paper; 14% use a medical device such as a glucometer; 4% reported using mHealth apps; 4% track data on their computer using software such as a spreadsheet; and 1% use a website. Where do the other 36% track this data? Informally, "in their heads," according to the report.
  • People with chronic conditions who track health data points are more likely to share what they find with other people. Some 30% of people without chronic conditions share, and 39% with chronic conditions share. Of those sharing, 64% of patients with chronic conditions share data with their physician, while only 30% of patients without chronic conditions do so.

All this tracking, also known as "quantified self," is affecting outcomes positively. Some 72% of trackers living with one or multiple conditions said tracking has had an impact on their health or the health of someone they care for, compared with 55% of trackers who reported no conditions. Those effects include asking a doctor new questions about their health, getting a second opinion, or affecting a care decision about how to treat an illness or condition.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Don Fluckinger, news director or contact @DonFluckinger on Twitter.

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