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Patient characteristics associated with objective measures of digital health tool use in the United States: A literature review.


The study sought to determine which patient characteristics are associated with the use of patient-facing digital health tools in the United States.

We conducted a literature review of studies of patient-facing digital health tools that objectively evaluated use (eg, system/platform data representing frequency of use) by patient characteristics (eg, age, race or ethnicity, income, digital literacy). We included any type of patient-facing digital health tool except patient portals. We reran results using the subset of studies identified as having robust methodology to detect differences in patient characteristics.

We included 29 studies; 13 had robust methodology. Most studies examined smartphone apps and text messaging programs for chronic disease management and evaluated only 1-3 patient characteristics, primarily age and gender. Overall, the majority of studies found no association between patient characteristics and use. Among the subset with robust methodology, white race and poor health status appeared to be associated with higher use.

Given the substantial investment in digital health tools, it is surprising how little is known about the types of patients who use them. Strategies that engage diverse populations in digital health tool use appear to be needed.

Few studies evaluate objective measures of digital health tool use by patient characteristics, and those that do include a narrow range of characteristics. Evidence suggests that resources and need drive use.

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