Wearable technology in healthcare provides the opportunity for doctors to see a wide array of data about their patients, including continuous heart rate, sleep patterns, how many steps taken in a day, and how many calories burned during workouts. The medical applications of this data range from cardiology to occupational medicine. The challenge lies in keeping patients interested in wearable technology in the long term, which is where this data really becomes useful.

Is Wearable Technology Falling Into Disuse?

Wearable devices such as fitness trackers have become very popular over the years, used by doctors, employers for workplace health initiatives, and individuals wanting to track their workouts. In spite of that popularity, 50% of the consumers of wearable technology give up on their devices within the first six months. In fact, half of the people who own activity trackers, such as Fitbit bracelets that monitor heartbeat and steps taken, don’t actually use them, according to a recent article published by Endeavour Partners. One in ten U.S. consumers over the age of 18 now owns an activity tracker and isn’t using it. The problem is that these devices aren’t designed to engage users in the long term, which prevents the user from achieving long-term positive results. The following three factors can ensure the adoption of wearable technology and sustainable use of it.
Habit formation: Engage the users through alerts, rewards, and suggestions, thereby helping the user make the wearable device part of their daily habits.
Social motivation: Connect data and activities to social media in order to build a community of motivation and competition for the wearer.
Goal reinforcement: By creating and reaching small goals every day, the user feels a sense of accomplishment and progress, keeping them interested in the device.

Medical Benefits of Wearable Technology

The positive impact wearables have had on patient engagement. If ten years ago you were to ask a patient how many steps they’re taking daily, what kind of response would you have gotten? With wearable technology you can get a reading for how physically active patients are during the day, what their average heart rate is, and more. If that data is pulled into the practice’s EHR software system, it gives the practitioner a detailed picture of the patient’s day-to-day physical activity. For a medical specialty like cardiology, having this information drives deeper engagement and communication in order to develop a health plan with the patient.

In occupational medicine as well as workplace health initiatives, wearable technology contributes to greater patient engagement and healthcare outcomes. Healthy workers are also less expensive to insure, which potentially increases a business’s profitability. When used as an innovative tool for healthcare, wearable technology becomes more than just a trendy fitness device, it can potentially increase patient engagement, improve healthcare outcomes and drive insurance costs down.

Wearable Technology Market Future

Wearables are more likely to engage with the consumer in a lasting way if the consumer doesn’t have to make major changes to their lifestyle to use them. Devices that have to be removed or synced often become cumbersome and are therefore more likely to be forgotten.

According to a 2014 Nielsen survey, half of consumers surveyed said they want to purchase a wearable device in the future. The wearable technology market is expected to be valued at $34 billion in 2020. If this trend is to continue, these devices will need to find new ways to engage the consumer and adapt for long-term use. As the technology becomes more refined and user-friendly, the positive impact it has on healthcare and personal fitness will drive further growth in the industry.