Why wearables still aren’t catching on
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Is this news really any surprise? Wearables, the "healthcare" devices that might be past their prime in the consumer market — even if they are still relevant — are just not catching on.
New research suggests that people with more life satisfaction also are more likely to stick with the use of their wearable devices and the wellness programs these devices seem to promote.
The new study, published in NEJM Catalyst, also looked at why other people give up. Researchers at the University of Southern California looked at personality and lifestyle traits that make people continue to use wearables and apps longer than the average, which is about six months, according to NEJM Catalyst.
The sample size of 275 is quite small, but for this population, a fitness tracker was embedded in a pair of prescription eyeglasses that the patients wore for 15 weeks. There may be a number of reasons those in the study stopped using the devices, such as that they forgot or they found them to be unattractive or the patients have reached their fitness goals.
For those who gave up using the devices, or those wanting to use the devices, those people must have devices that are not only accurate and appealing to use, but also should be designed with the patient in mind, which is more of an issue with the design firms than it is that of the consumers.
Fierce Healthcare reports that the researchers said, "incentives and self-focused measures are equally effective motivators. Future wearable tech should be designed with this in mind, and should target patient's self-improvement goals."
"It is the responsibility of medical professionals, designers and researchers to create a user experience around the hardware and software components of the sensor that is compelling enough to help people realize these goals," the researchers said.
Providers, ultimately, will likely be required to dig into the data generated by these devices and how to leverage wearable technology, including applying it to care for chronic conditions — if they are able. In many cases, physicians still find the data generated from those tools untrustworthy and overwhelming.
According to some reports, industry analysts believe that platforms for seamless and secure integration of patient data through such devices will be standard by 2024.
"If the rapid adoption of wearables for fitness purposes are any indication, we can expect that wearable devices for monitoring health will quickly take hold, and become an integral part of enhanced use and usefulness. Our mobile phones, watches, and even clothes will soon continuously monitor our health data and relay it to physicians and/or advanced data analytics algorithms, who will use it to monitor responses to treatment regimens as well as to detect, predict, and even prevent illness," according to PreScouter’s Charles Wright.
However, none of this information really points out whether the devices actually work. The New York Times reported earlier this year that based on research from multiple, comprehensive studies, wearables themselves don’t lead to greater weight loss or better fitness for users, whether they like their lives or not.
Stepping back in time, a 2014 report featured on tech news site TechRepublic, said wearables “fail to keep the interest of users for more than a few months. A survey of 6,223 U.S. adults revealed that one in 10 consumers age 18 and over owns a modern activity tracker … yet more than half of the survey's respondents said that they no longer use their activity tracker, and a third of those stopped using the device within six months of receiving it."
Going back to the current NEJM Catalyst study, another problem people have with wearables is price. Many patients who might benefit from the tech can't afford it.
Ultimately, the technology will probably give way to more ambitious pursuits, such as implantables, where the technology is cheaper, longer-lasting and unobtrusive to the user.
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