Wearables open new opportunities for Americans to address chronic conditions and health problems that currently affect so many people and degrade their quality of life. Out of 315 million Americans, about two-thirds are overweight. About 26 million Americans suffer from type I or II diabetes; almost 14 million have severe chronic respiratory problems such as COPD; 68 million have hypertension. These are all persistent problems, even as online health information has expanded availability to education about healthy living, preventive care, and self-care.
Apps in particular are helping consumers pursue healthier lifestyles through technology and wellness solutions, and wearable usage in conjunction with apps could offer a potent combination in combating many of today’s health challenges. Most wearable health and wellness devices do come with an app to guide consumers on the device operation and promote more usage and deeper engagement; however, only about 50% of connected health device owners use the device and app together. If device makers cannot incentivize consumers to use their apps in conjunction with the device, then consumers are unlikely to experience the full health benefits of such a wearable, which could drive down usage and adoption over time.
Apps in general have become a key part of the mobile lifestyle, and health apps are no exception. Consumers use apps to obtain health information, join health and wellness programs, monitor weight-loss progress, or interact with a personal coach. Among the 85% of U.S. consumers living in broadband households who own a smartphone or a tablet:
- 40% use a mobile app at least monthly to look up wellness information.
- 25% use an app to track fitness activities against goals.
- 20% record diet and nutritional information on meals.
- 13% track sleep patterns.
While app usage is become more common, the variety of options ensure that consumers will switch apps or simply discontinue use if a particular app does not meet their expectations. App design and integration are important considerations for device manufacturers, who need to examine the following factors to ensure that users are satisfied with their app:
- Are device owners made aware of their device’s companion app or compatible apps from third-party developers?
- Are these companion or compatible apps designed for ease of use, and do they offer valuable insights and experiences for device owners?
- Are the apps upgraded frequently with new features and appropriate re-engagement approaches?
- Have device owners experienced positive outcomes? Do they perceive improvement in their health because of app use?
The answers to these questions will be key for device manufacturers in driving the healthy growth of the wearables market. Healthcare industry stakeholders are surveying the device and app landscape to evaluate the impact of wearables on their business, so the stakes couldn’t be higher for wearable device makers. Manufacturers are selling not just a piece of hardware but also a healthy living experience with a promise of concrete health to consumers and financial benefits to care providers and insurers. Device OEMs must prove these benefits soon, and integrated app usage as part of the device usage experience can go a long way to ensure positive health outcomes and sustained consumer demand for these devices.
Parks Associates will examine opportunities for care providers and payers to leverage consumer interest in wearables to bring about better health outcomes during the second-annual Connected Health Summit: Engaging Consumers. The executive summit will take place on September 9-10 in San Diego, CA, and will feature keynotes from AT&T, Humana, and Kaiser Permanente.