Mobile Health Is A Team Sport; Do You Know Who Is Calling The Plays?

With high mobile health usage across channels, similar usage patterns to patients in health care settings, and a large stake in care decisions themselves, you need to make sure that the caregiver is considered appropriately when developing your mobile brand approach. 

Brand planning turns into plan of action cycles, which turn into campaigns, which turn into the daily slog of making sure patients are prescribed and using the treatment we offer to help them with their disease or condition. We study the patient and how they suffer, how they diagnose and seek treatment. Then we get them to go to the doctor and get help. 

More and more, though, we are learning that disease management isn’t a solo act, it’s a team sport. One with more players invested in the outcome than just the one taking the pill. They go by many descriptions: wife, husband, mother, father, son, daughter…but for the purposes of our discussion, let’s just refer to them as the caregivers. It’s admittedly a broad term, but within the mobile health space it is reflective of a very important group of influencers, if not decision makers.



The caregiver may at first be an afterthought, but research we conducted this summer confirmed what we already see for some clients – the care-influencer is a prolific consumer of mobile health information. Often on par with the patient, and even more active in some cases.

Who is the caregiver? We surveyed 2,000 patients and caregivers that use mobile for health research, and in the study report,Consumer Mobile Health Impact Assessment: How the Use of Mobile Impacts Disease Treatment and Therapy,  what we found was that the mhealth caregiver is similar to our patient in many aspects. Two-thirds are female, about 6% more than patients. Like patients, over half are married, but about 30% more likely to make less than $50,000 in annual salary. 

Caregivers access the mobile web for condition related health information just as much as patients, but are slightly more active when it comes to certain areas such as:

  • About the disease and understanding its impact
  • Administration and financial information about a treatment
  • Social sharing and latest news

Mobile health apps however, start to show us some more significant differences in the caregiver’s use for mHealth information and services. While app usage to learn more about the disease was over 10% higher for caregivers than patients, research activity to understand the disease’s impact was 20% higher for them.

Drug information activity on apps was also about 10% higher for caregivers than patients, and social research and sharing activities were between 15-20% higher, with caregivers using apps nearly 20% more often than patients to share and help other like them. 

SMS, or text messaging, provided the lens into the starkest differences with caregiver use of mHealth. Caregiver use of SMS overall was similar to patient use and ranged between 10-30% for all of the surveyed activities. However, usage by caregivers was significantly higher than patients in a handful of key areas.
Use of SMS to find a doctor was nearly 30% higher for caregivers than patients. Once they found the doctor and were prescribed treatment, caregivers were 20% more active in using SMS to set or get medication reminders than patients were. This care related activity increase wasn’t limited to medication reminders alone, as we also observed that 1 in 4 were using SMS to coordinate care appointments. An increase of 40% over patient use for the same purpose. 

That activity cannot be understated. These caregivers are influencers, or outright decision makers. In fact, 70% of mhealth caregivers surveyed indicated that they were at least one of the treatment decision makers, with nearly half (45%) of them indicating that they were the sole decision maker. Overall, 92% of caregivers indicated that they had at least some influence in the treatment decision-making process.

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