Mobile Phone Ownership, Health Apps, and Tablet Use in US Adults With a Self-Reported History of Hypertension: Cross-Sectional Study
Background: Mobile phone and tablet ownership have increased in the United States over the last decade, contributing to the growing use of mobile health (mHealth) interventions to help patients manage chronic health conditions like diabetes. However, few studies have characterized mobile device ownership and the presence of health-related apps on mobile devices in people with a self-reported history of hypertension. Objective: This study aimed to describe the prevalence of smartphone, tablet, and basic mobile phone ownership and the presence of health apps by sociodemographic factors and self-reported hypertension status (ie, history) in a nationally representative sample of US adults, and to describe whether mobile devices are associated with health goal achievement, medical decision making, and patient-provider communication. Methods: Data from 3285 respondents from the 2017 Health Information National Trends Survey were analyzed. Participants were asked if they owned a smartphone, tablet, or basic mobile phone and if they had health apps on a smartphone or tablet. Participants were also asked if their smartphones or tablets helped them achieve a health-related goal like losing weight, make a decision about how to treat an illness, or talk with their health care providers. Chi-square analyses were conducted to test for differences in mobile device ownership, health app presence, and app helpfulness by patient characteristics. Results: Approximately 1460 (37.6% weighted prevalence) participants reported a history of hypertension. Tablet and smartphone ownership were lower in participants with a history of hypertension than in those without a history of hypertension (55% vs 66%, P=.001, and 86% vs 68%, P<.001, respectively). Participants with a history of hypertension were more likely to own a basic mobile phone only as compared to those without a history of hypertension (16% vs 9%, P<.001). Among those with a history of hypertension exclusively, basic mobile phone, smartphone, and tablet ownership were associated with age and education, but not race or sex. Older adults were more likely to report having a basic mobile phone only, whereas those with higher education were more likely to report owning a tablet or smartphone. Compared to those without a history of hypertension, participants with a history of hypertension were less likely to have health-related apps on their smartphones or tablets (45% vs 30%, P<.001) and report that mobile devices helped them achieve a health-related goal (72% vs 63%, P=.01). Conclusions: Despite the increasing use of smartphones, tablets, and health-related apps, these tools are used less among people with a self-reported history of hypertension. To reach the widest cross-section of patients, a mix of novel mHealth interventions and traditional health communication strategies (eg, print, web based, and in person) are needed to support the diverse needs of people with a history of hypertension.