Easing Counselors’ Concerns about mHealth: Many Clients Have Mobile Phones

One of the promises of mobile health technology – mHealth – is extending the reach of services to under-served populations isolated by geography, lack of transportation, or physical health challenges. At conferences I have attended about mHealth, I have heard many mental health counselors express concern about the availability of mobile devices to their clients, many of whom live below the poverty level.

Hope for mobile health - digital divide decreasing in USWhile specific circumstances may vary in particular locales, trends are promising:

  • According to the Pew Internet and Life Project, as of May 2013, 91% of American adults had a cell phone; 56% of American adults had a smartphone.
  • As of September 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau as reported by CNSNews.com, 80.9% of households below the poverty level had cell phones.
  • “Remarkably, there is emerging evidence that many chronically homeless individuals now also use mobile devices regularly,” writesDror Ben-Zeev in January 2012.
  • Results of a survey of 266 urban, substance abuse treatment patients enrolled at 8 free clinics: 91% reported access to a mobile phone and 79% to text messaging.
  • “Concern regarding the digital divide for marginalized populations appears to be disappearing with respect to mobile phones, but still exists for computer, internet, and e-mail access and use,” writes Erin A. McClure et al. in October 2012.
  • “Mobile devices are not only helping to bridge the digital divide for socioeconomic groups who cannot afford to own computers, but, within the next 10 years, they will help to bridge the health divide for under-served and hard-to-reach populations,” Judith Proudfoot predicts in a February 2013 article.

I will be sharing these findings and more during the round table discussion An App for That? What Counselors Need to Know about the Latest Research on mHealth for Mental Health during the Annual Convention for the Virginia Counselors Associationat The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, on Friday, November 8, 2013, 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM.

Please read more about the session here: What Counselors Need to Know about the Latest Research on mHealth for Mental Health