Digital Health

Wearables and Apps Influence Positive Health and Wellness Behaviors

by Harry Wang | Mar. 16, 2016

There is a large market opportunity for health services that cater to consumers’ healthy living needs. Overall, about half of Americans participate in at least one health or wellness service—one in four has a fitness club membership; one in seven is in a diet and nutrition program; and a similar percentage are participants of a weight loss program. Less popular programs include alcohol management, tobacco cessation and cognitive training courses. These programs may be funded by participants’ employers or health insurers, and consumers may also receive discounts or incentives to join these programs.

The challenge for the health and wellness industry is to move the needle towards producing more positive outcomes, or at least providing an engaging consumer experience so participants will continue their participation.

Among the 90% 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 related to food, diet and nutrition.
  • 25% use an app to track fitness activities against goals.
  • 20% record diet and nutritional information on meals, and 13% track sleep patterns.

Consumers increasingly use their favorite mobile apps to obtain health information, join health and wellness programs, monitor progress and interact with other participants or a personal coach. As smartphone ownership has risen to a mainstream level and choices of health apps have increased, access to mobile app-based health and wellness tools is no longer an issue. Usage—measured as consumer engagement levels with these apps—reveals more important behavioral patterns.

Most wearable health and wellness devices usually come with a free app. However, if device makers cannot incentivize consumers to use their apps at a higher frequency and deeper engagement level, the health benefits of using such a wearable are unlikely to be persuasive. Low usage may reduce consumers’ interest in upgrading their experience when device OEMs launch new products with more robust features.

At 54%, owners of a digital fitness tracker or a smartwatch have the highest “attach rate.” Device manufacturers need to examine the app usage experience to ensure that users are satisfied with their app.

Wearable devices and their apps represent a new digital data and service platform through which health industry players can influence end users’ health and wellness behaviors. For this reason, health systems, insurers, population health management service provider, and their technology partners have been watching wearables innovations with great interest.

This article originally appeared at Physicians Health News.

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Harry Wang

Harry Wang

Senior Director of Research

Harry Wang oversees Parks Associates’ mobility and apps research, which covers mobile/wearable devices and services, apps and APIs, and mobile commerce/marketing, payment, and connected car industries. He is also the founder and lead analyst of Parks Associates’ digital health research program since its inception in 2006. He and his team cover emerging health technologies, applications, and services in areas such as chronic/preventive care, independent living, wellness and fitness, and virtual/convenience care.

Harry has published more than 40 industry reports and white papers and presented his mobility and digital health research at numerous industry events including CES, Mobile World Congress, CTIA, Open Mobile Summit, World Health Congress, the American Telemedicine Association Annual Trade Show, and Parks Associates’ CONNECTIONS™ and Connected Health Summit conferences.

Harry earned his MS degree in marketing research from the University of Texas at Arlington. He also holds an MBA degree in finance from Texas Christian University and a BA degree in international business from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, P.R. China.

Industry Expertise: Digital Health Products and Services, Portable and Mobile Access Platforms and Applications, Digital Imaging Products and Services

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