A report on a survey regarding wearable fitness trackers arrived in the HealthBlawger’s mailbox this week. An interesting dose of reality, after spending a few days in Silicon Valley recently with a cadre of early adopters.

Here are the highlights:

>> 74.9 percent of adults do not track their weight, diet, or exercise using a fitness tracking device or app
>> The most commonly cited reason for not tracking fitness or health is a general lack of interest (27.2 percent), followed by concerns over device cost (17.7 percent)
>> 43.7 percent respondents did not have a specific reason for not tracking their fitness
>> 57.1 percent of non-tracking adults said that the possibility of lower health insurance premiums would make them more likely to use a fitness tracking device
>> Less than half of respondents (44.3 percent) said that better healthcare advice from their physician would be an incentive to use a fitness tracker

The study’s sponsor, TechnologyAdvice, posits:

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 [sic] 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.

In recent weeks we’ve also seen the fitful start down the path of personal tracker data integration and delivery to health care providers by a major consumer electronics company, which has joined a few others already on this path.

A few key questions remain:

  • Is any of this data truly valuable to health care providers or payors with respect to individual patients?
  • Is it of any value to individuals? The value proposition seems to be predicated on the value of big data to payors for risk management purposes, secondarily to providers for evidence-based medicine purposes, and only third to an individual.
  • How will the data have to be massaged so that a health care provider (whether operating in a FFS or risk payment environment) would want to see it in real time or near real time?
  • Do privacy concerns trump the value of this data? Are privacy and security protections put in place by device manufacturers sufficient?

What questions do you have about personal tracker data collection and use?

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

Photo credit: Flickr CC Eddie Codel

One reply on “mHealth Fitness Trackers Have a Long Way to Go”

  1. The next stage for manufacturers like Apple, is to lobby insurance providers to discount insurance just like they do for preventative corporate programs. They must prove the model that wearing these devices makes you healthier and brings down group costs. Devices also must continue to make it easier to use.

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