Incentives from Physicians, Insurance Companies Could Significantly Increase Use of Health Wearables

Health wearables and fitness tracking devices have created an unprecedented opportunity for the healthcare community to collect valuable data that could greatly impact patient care and health insurance premiums. Still, adoption rates for such devices remain low in the U.S. adult population.

While the use of health and fitness tracking devices has more than doubled in the last two years, a new nationwide survey conducted by TechnologyAdvice shows that only 25.1 percent of adults are currently using either a fitness tracker or a smartphone app to monitor their health, weight or exercise. However, the survey also shows that nearly half of those not using such a device would be more likely to use one if it were provided free by their physician or health insurance company.

“Healthcare providers and health insurance companies are two of the largest stakeholders in the promotion of fitness tracking devices, and they have an opportunity to greatly influence their use,” said the report’s author, TechnologyAdvice managing editor Cameron Graham. “This survey revealed there are few real barriers to using health wearables, and also indicated adoption rates would increase if their use was incentivized by the healthcare community. If healthcare providers worked in tandem with health insurance companies, both stakeholders could benefit from the collected population health data.”

Nearly 44 percent of respondents did not have a specific reason for not tracking their fitness, while another 27.2 percent cited a simple lack of interest in wearing a fitness tracking device. Cost, data privacy, and device design did not prove to be overly impactful concerns. With these limited barriers to use, almost half (48.2 percent) of non-tracking adults said they would use a free fitness tracking device provided by their physicians, while 46.1 percent said they would use one provided for free by their health insurance company.

When it comes to incentives, monetary rewards proved far more influential than improved healthcare. A stunning 57 percent of non-trackers said they would be more likely to use health wearables if it saved them money on their health insurance premiums, compared to just 44.3 percent who were more likely to track their fitness if it allowed their physician to offer better healthcare advice.

This data, which reflects the acceptance of similar self-monitoring incentives now being offered by auto insurance providers, suggests that health insurance providers are in a better position to encourage the adoption of health fitness tracking than healthcare providers. However, both would benefit greatly from increased use of fitness tracking devices. Physicians would gain access to accurate, patient-generated data that could improve preventative care strategies, monitor patient outcomes, and analyze overall trends in patient populations. Meanwhile, it would allow health insurance providers to create more accurate risk profiles on individuals while gathering valuable data on risk factors and potential expenditures.

The survey was conducted through a random sample of more than 900 U.S. adults who were asked about their general fitness tracking habits, including 419 who were surveyed on their specific reasons for not using tracking devices or apps. More information on this survey’s results and methodology can be found here.

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