Baby boomers trust physicians’ recommendations on medical apps

Sixty percent of boomers are likely to download an app recommended by a physician, but the question is how to get them to use it.

By — Posted Aug. 13, 2012

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Physicians have significant influence over baby boomers and their likelihood to download a smartphone app to monitor or manage their health, according to a new survey.

Mitchell PR surveyed 600 baby boomer smartphone users and found that more than half were likely to download a general information medical app. Sixty percent said a physician would be the most likely person to make them download an app. Mitchell PR is a division of East Lansing, Mich.-based Mitchell Research and Communications, which specializes in helping companies market apps to baby boomers.

The survey, conducted online in June, looked at boomers’ likelihood of downloading medical and health and wellness apps. It found that 48% would download an app to monitor heart disease, diabetes or other chronic disease, and 47% would download an app to help them monitor weight and exercise. When asked who was most apt to influence them to download an app, physicians were the overwhelming choice over family (18%) and friends (4%).

Though the study did not look at or test specific apps, Suzie Mitchell, president and chief financial officer of Mitchell Research and Communications, said she knows from conducting focus groups that baby boomers want apps that are easy to navigate and have a large font size. They are willing to pay up to $10 for an app, she said.

Mike Lee, digital strategy adviser for, said that when recommending apps, physicians should do some vetting to determine whether the developer is a trusted source.

Apple and Google app stores have links to the developers’ information. Lee said legitimate developers should identify who they are and list their qualifications. If the app is tied to a service with a website, the site should look professional and provide good information. Physicians might consider recommending apps developed by “trusted brands,” such as Mayo Clinic, Lee said.

Another sign of a good developer is when the app appears to have regular updates. That generally means they listen to customer feedback, are adept at fixing bugs and provide updated information, he said.

Mitchell said that although doctors can influence which apps patients buy or download, boomers don’t always use them. She said she is working on a pilot program aimed at providing education to boomers about mobile apps and how to use them.

She had boomers in a focus group download a health and fitness app. When participants launched the app, there was a negative reaction to it, and most said they wouldn’t use it. She walked them through the app and showed them how it worked. Within 30 minutes, the majority of people in the group were excited about it.

If physician practices or hospitals had someone on staff, such as a nurse, in charge of patient education who could conduct classes and create communities of mobile app users, app use would grow significantly, Mitchell said. “Once they see it’s not hard or overwhelming, they’ll use it,” she added.

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How boomers shop for medical apps

A survey of 600 baby boomer smartphone users showed which apps they are likely to use, to whom they are most apt to listen concerning recommendations and how much they are willing to spend.

71% would be willing to pay for an app

36% would spend $1 to $2 on an app

35% would spend up to $10

49% have downloaded six or more apps

28% have downloaded between one and five apps

15% have been diagnosed with heart disease

7% have been diagnosed with diabetes

2% have been diagnosed with heart disease and diabetes

60% are most likely to use an app recommended by a doctor

18% are most likely to use an app recommended by a family member

5% are most likely to use an app recommended by a friend

Source: Mitchell PR survey

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