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Expand chart
Data: Kaiser Family Foundation Health Apps and Information Survey; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Tech companies trying to disrupt the health care system still have a long way to go.

Why it matters: Splashy health tech announcements are everywhere, but many are more hype than reality, according to a poll conducted for this column.

By the numbers: 70% of the people we surveyed say they’ve used the internet to research symptoms or learn more about health conditions. And 51% use apps or other tech tools to track their sleep, fitness or diet.

  • But as people’s needs shift from personal information-gathering into the formal health care system, their tech usage begins to fall.
  • Only 44% have accessed their medical records online, and fewer than 25% have used the internet to manage chronic conditions, mental health, or their health care spending.

Yes, but: Across the board, young people are more likely to go online for some part of their health care needs.

  • Nearly half of 18-44 year-olds, for example, have used the internet to research a provider — compared with just 32% of patients older than 45.

The big picture: In Silicon Valley, where I have lived and worked for over 25 years, “disruption” is a buzzword and a goal unto itself. And in health tech, promises of “disruption” run the gamut from coverage to payment to actual care.

  • Apple, Eli Lilly and a startup called Evidation Health recently announced plans for an iPhone and Apple Watch feature they say could help detect Alzheimer’s.
  • Startups like San Francisco-based Forward offer concierge primary care that uses a slew of high-tech tools, in an office modeled on the experience of using an app.
  • And of course there’s the most famous example of a failed promise of disruptive health tech: Theranos.

The bottom line: It’s time to pay close, serious attention to what is real and what is hype in health tech.

  • This conversation, which has been the province of investors, tech companies and the business press, warrants more serious and objective questions about the effects on people’s health, privacy, and their health spending.

Go deeper

China's crypto throwdown

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's latest move to ban cryptocurrency shows how tough it will be for the technology to deliver on its backers' vision of disruptive, decentralized change.

The big picture: Control of the currency is a foundation of sovereignty, and governments don't plan on losing that control even as money inevitably turns digital.

D.C. homicides fueled by rundown properties

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Angela Washington was the last line of defense for residents at the Oak Hill Apartments in Southeast besieged by gun violence. Then, on the evening of Sept. 21, the 41-year-old special police officer was shot to death.

Why it matters: The District’s spike in gun violence is being linked partly to rundown properties that city officials and residents say have become magnets for criminal activity.

Biden's reengineer-America moment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate's bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and President Biden's $3.5 trillion spending package could live or die this week — and take Democrats' fortunes with them. But all the minute-by-minute political drama obscures how much America could change if even a fraction of it passes.

The big picture: Anything short of total failure could have a transformative impact on day-to-day life — from how we move around to our access to the internet, paid family leave and child care, health care and college.