Guest post by Matt Zajechowski.
Most people are familiar with wearable technology today and how they track information related to health and fitness of the wearer or the person engaging with it. One in five American’s now owns a wearable tech device. The focus on wearable tech is on for both the consumer as well as the health care providers and the health insurance industry.
Susan Hahn-Reizner, who is on the advisory board of Northwestern School of Professional Studies, has put together a comprehensive infographic that looks at how wearable technology is changing the healthcare services industry.
The Current State of Wearables
The use of wearable tech is still in its infancy; however, users are starting to weigh in on both the benefits of wearable technology as well as the unmet expectations that come with it.
The most popular wearable devices in the market are fitness bands and smart watches. On the consumer side of wearable tech, 56 percent of consumers believe the average life expectancy increases at least 10 years because of wearables monitoring vital signs. Forty-six percent of consumers also believe wearable technology can help them to lose weight and maintain a more active lifestyle.
On the flip side there are many unmet expectations that come with wearable technology. Abandonment is a big issue with wearable technology with more than 33 percent of wearable device consumers using the device less or not at all after a year of purchase the device. Another big issue for consumers is privacy and security breaches that come with this technology. Eight-two percent of consumers have concerns because of invasion of privacy and another 86 percent worry that wearables make them more vulnerable to security breaches.
How Health Insurance Companies Are Pushing Wearable Technology to Consumers
The health insurance company Humana began using wearables to reward fitness activities with reduced premiums, gift cards and health devices. A three-year study of employees who participated in this program showed a 44 percent decrease in the number of sick days taken.
BP distributed 16,000 FitBits to its employees as part of a larger healthcare plan for its workforce. This helped to drop corporate healthcare costs well below the national growth rate. Over the course of 25 years, it’s estimated that wearable technology and remote patient monitoring technologies could help to cut hospital costs and save more than $200 billion. As you can see wearables can help to put a huge dent in cutting healthcare costs.
The Future of Wearables
Currently wearable technology can help to increase consumer engagement, track physical activity and collect important health data. But there is so much more potential that can be done with this type of technology. Wearable programs are being fine-tuned to provide even more benefits for not only consumers, but also insurers, employers and other healthcare providers. Some benefits that wearable technology can provide in the near future include:
- Wearables can be used by employers to help gauge when under-the-weather employees are physically able to return to work. These wearables can be used to monitor the activity levels of employees recovering from sickness and allow for more realistic estimations on when they can return to work.
- Wearables can be used to help track surgical recovery. Surgical patients can be sent home with wearable devices that track heart rate, range of motion, ability to climb stairs, and the level of pain the patient is feeling. Using wearables along with patient-generated data from a questionnaire will provide doctors with more information on how to better how understand each patients unique recovery time.
Despite many consumers’ concerns over price, privacy and ease of use, the market for wearables is expected to grow to 411 million units by 2020. The future of wearable technology in the healthcare industry is very bright.