Digital Health Science Digest: Issue 9

Posted | Posted in Digital Health Science Digest

mHealth app attrition rates, hacking a printer to diagnose CVD, and we’re hiring undergrads! 

The Digital Health Science Digest is a bimonthly newsletter compiled by Duke Digital Health. We bring you the most interesting research publications, policy news, and other fun digital health science stuff.  

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Issue 9



  • This 16-year old just hacked a printer to create a low-cost, rapid diagnostic test for cardiovascular disease. Who says print is dead?

  • Roche is giving Parkinson’s patients smartphones to facilitate continuous data collection.

  • #globalhealth “Dr. Anita” is training community health workers and providing family planning and postnatal care to women all over Uttar Pradesh, India via Interactive Voice Response (IVR).


It was a pretty slow digital health policy cycle, but here are some health disparities-related updates:

  • A new program in South Carolina will allow people who have Medicaid to get 12 obesity counseling sessions by a doctor or registered dietitian. “Dietitians are particularly good at meeting patients where they’re at…” says Nina Crowley, a dietitian at the Medical University of South Carolina. We agree! 

  • The CDC released health insurance survey results from January – March of 2015, which show that for the first time in over 50 years of surveys, fewer than 10% of Americans are uninsured. There are declines in uninsured rates across populations all over the country. 


  • The American Heart Association (with a little help from our Director) published a comprehensive report on the current science of consumer mHealth interventions for cardiovascular disease prevention. 

  • A web-based HIV-prevention program that helps African-American women negotiate condom use with male partners showed significant increase in self-reported condom use as well as sexual communication, sex refusal, and HIV prevention knowledge.  Here’s a great quote from the paper for all you theory-based interventionists out there, “For a man, using a condom is a behavior. For a woman, it is a goal.”

  • Under the heading of #obvi, a recent study of 726 exercise app users and nonusers found that app users are more likely to exercise, compared to those who have never used an app or who had used an app and then stopped. Great! Except, this leads us to the next question – which came first, the app or the exerciser? 

  • …And on that note, a study on the effects of adding an app to a web-based program, 10,000 Steps Australia, still resulted in 50% attrition over 3 months. This was lower than the web-only attrition rate. 

  • Judging by the number of customer reviews (i.e.,lack thereof), of over 24,000 health-related iOS and Android apps, less than 25% of them are “in widespread use.”


  • (How) can digital health help Durham residents? Find out in this week’s blog post:

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