How the US Healthcare Industry Can Encourage Fitness Tracking

October 15, 2014
133 Views

fitness trackerOver the last decade or so, the U.S. healthcare system has undergone a series of rapid technological advances. These include the adoption of electronic health record systems, a widespread push for better patient engagement through digital patient portals, and the impending adoption of the ICD-10 code system.

fitness trackerOver the last decade or so, the U.S. healthcare system has undergone a series of rapid technological advances. These include the adoption of electronic health record systems, a widespread push for better patient engagement through digital patient portals, and the impending adoption of the ICD-10 code system.

At the same time, wearable technology, mainly in the form of fitness tracking devices, has established a foothold in the consumer market. According to a survey of 979 U.S. adults, 25.1 percent of adults track their weight, diet, or exercise using a digital fitness tracker or smartphone-based app. The healthcare potential of such patient-generated data is huge. Accurate, patient-generated data could help physicians remotely monitor patient-outcomes, give better preventative care advice, and spots trends within patient populations.

However, although the market for such devices and apps is growing, nearly three-quarters of American adults are still not tracking their fitness or health using digital devices (if at all). Wearable fitness trackers, such as the FitBit, have been on the market for close to a decade, and are available at numerous price-points. Yet they remain largely relegated to fitness-enthusiasts, and niche communities such as the quantified-self movement.

In order to better determine the current barriers to adoption, and help the healthcare community encourage tracking, TechnologyAdvice recently conducted a nationwide survey looking at the current rates of fitness tracking, and ways in which non-tracking adults could be better engaged.

The results indicate that one of the main barriers to adoption is a general lack of interest, followed by concerns over the cost of fitness tracking devices or apps. 27.2 percent of respondents cited a lack of interest, while 17.7 percent cited device cost.

In order to convince those who simply lack interest in tracking their fitness or health, physicians may need to better articulate the benefits of such devices or provide direct incentives for using them. The price of wearable devices should continue to drop as the market expands, and single-focus devices (such as a FitBit) are forced to compete with comprehensive offerings like the upcoming Apple Watch.

Interestingly, 43.7 percent of respondents didn’t have a specific reason for not using such devices to track their health or fitness. For those looking to encourage adoption, this is a positive sign, as it suggests that a large portion of adults have simply not considered the idea before. Because there is no direct barrier to adoption with this demographic, it’s likely that increased marketing or better targeted ad-campaigns could convince many of these people to track their health.

Despite the noted barriers to adoption, we also found significant potential for the healthcare industry to increase the number of fitness-tracking adults, using a variety of incentives.

Just under half of non-tracking adults (48.2 percent) said they would use a fitness tracker if it was provided to them (at no cost) by their physician.

Given that the vast-majority of US adults currently do not track their fitness or health using digital devices, this is a major opportunity to spur adoption. The responses indicate that by providing free devices to patients, physicians could actually double the amount of adults who track such metrics.

The possibility of lower health insurance premiums also appears to be an effective incentive. 57.1 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to use a fitness tracker if they could receive lower health insurance premiums.

In contrast, just 44.3 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to use a fitness tracker if it allowed their physician to offer better health care advice.

Given such discrepancies, we believe that the best methods to promote further fitness-tracking adoption among adults are through physician-provided (or subsidized) devices, or health insurance incentives.

If healthcare providers and insurance companies work together to encourage tracking, such behavior and device usage could grow exponentially in the near future. Even if these incentives are implemented separately, they would likely have a large impact on the fitness-tracking and wearable device market.

fitness tracking / shutterstock

You may be interested

Where Is The Balance? Pushing Back Against Consumer Health Tech
eHealth
3 views
eHealth
3 views

Where Is The Balance? Pushing Back Against Consumer Health Tech

Larry Alton - August 18, 2017

When Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz glibly remarked that Americans struggling to afford insurance should choose between that and their smartphones,…

What to Look for in Patient Solutions Software
eHealth
365 views
eHealth
365 views

What to Look for in Patient Solutions Software

Robert Cordray - August 17, 2017

The medical sector is one area where technology has had a significant impact, largely by providing tools that simplify many…

Can Natural Remedies Like RediCalm Decrease Stress and Anxiety?
Wellness
2 views
Wellness
2 views

Can Natural Remedies Like RediCalm Decrease Stress and Anxiety?

Ryan Kh - August 16, 2017

According to research from the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the…