Introduction: mHealth holds promise in transforming care for people with serious mental illness (SMI) and other disadvantaged populations. However, information about the rates of smartphone ownership and usage of mobile health apps among people with SMI is limited. The objective of this research is to examine the current ownership, usage patterns, and existing barriers to mobile health interventions for people with SMI treated in a public sector community mental health setting and to compare the findings with national usage patterns from the general population.
Methods: A survey was conducted to determine rates of ownership of smartphone devices among people with SMI. Surveys were administered to 100 patients with SMI at an outpatient psychiatric clinic. Results were compared with respondents to the 2012 Pew Survey of mobile phone usage.
Results: A total of 85% of participants reported that they owned a cell phone; of those, 37% reported that they owned a smartphone, as compared with 53% of respondents to the Pew Survey and 44% of socioeconomically disadvantaged respondents to the Pew Survey.
Discussion: While cell phone ownership is common among people with SMI, their adoption of smartphone technology lags behind that of the general population primarily due to cost barriers. Efforts to use mHealth in these populations need to recognize current mobile ownership patterns while planning for anticipated expansion of new technologies to poor populations as cost barriers are reduced in the coming years.