The rise of wearables: Five things that health execs need to know

Interest in wearables was once limited to that of gadget geeks and obsessive athletes. Now the everyday consumer is beginning to strap them on their wrists to count their steps around the grocery store. According to a PwC’s most recent report, The Wearable Life 2.0, between 2014 and 2016, the percentage of Americans who said they own a wearable doubled from 21% to 49%. These consumers are looking to improve their health with the wearables and so their embrace of this technology has implications for the health industry. Here’s what executives involved with the health industry need to know: 

  1. Price is the primary driver of adoption. Even with the increase in adoption, a third of consumers still don’t own a wearable device, citing affordability as a potential driver for future purchases. Many consumers – more than 66% – expect employers to foot the bill for their devices. Millennials are even more enthusiastic – they are more likely to own wearables and they are more likely to want their employer to pay for them.
  2. Establishing trust and protecting privacy is key. Consumers are far more willing to trust health providers than consumer-product companies with their data. In fact, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and health insurers are among the companies consumers trust the most with their data. Yet, consumers are hesitant to share their data with their employers, a potential barrier for employers that want to use wearables to improve employee wellness and potentially lower health costs and raise productivity. Transparency and employee education will go a long way toward resolving these issues, which is important, as 49 percent of consumers believe wearable technology will increase workplace efficiency.
  3. Consumers view their wearable devices as extensions of their smartphones. Seventy-eight percent of consumers with a smartphone-connected wearable device said they use their devices more frequently due to their connectivity. Sixteen percent of respondents without wearable devices said they would likely consider purchasing one if it connected seamlessly with their phones. For the healthcare industry, executives need to consider connectivity between wearables and smartphones and with the rest of the health ecosystem. Companies that can meld data from their consumers’ wearables with data from, for example: electronic medical records, shopping history and preferences logged from visits to the retail clinics could offer unique insights of enormous value to their customers.
  4. Consumers want tangible benefits from regular wearable use. Eighty-eight percent of consumers surveyed by PwC believe wearable technology helps them exercise smarter and achieve their fitness and wellness goals. The health industry should consider how to further encourage adoption of wearables. Fifty-four percent of consumers said they were more likely to frequently use wearables with monetary rewards; 45% said they would be motivated to use wearables featuring competitive gaming.
  5. Sustained success for the wearables in the health industry depends on user engagement. For most consumers, wearables don’t pass the “turnaround test,” meaning their owners wouldn’t turn around to retrieve their device if they forgot it at home. Consumers who had abandoned their devices said there was no pressing need to use it. This could be an issue for healthcare providers, drugmakers or other groups planning to use wearables for clinical trial monitoring or telemedicine. If the industry can solve this problem, physicians could use wearables to extend the doctor-patient relationship beyond once-a-year visits; instead offering interactions in a more convenient, lower-cost way.

Consumers anticipate a bright and healthier future in a wearable world. Seventy percent believe we will live 10 years longer as a result of widespread use of wearable devices. Sixty-three percent believe there will be fewer obesity-related health issues. Sixty-two percent believe wearables will reduce health insurance premiums. To make this world a reality, wearables will need to move beyond fitness trackers. They will need to become more dynamic, useful and irresistible – for example, a bracelet with thermoelectric pulses to reduce joint pain or a watch with sensing abilities to reduce stress before an anxiety attack or earbuds worn to listen to music that also track health vitals. The industry will need to consider privacy, cost, connectivity and especially, provide tangible benefits to the consumer.

For more information, check out the full report here.

This article was originally published on Vaughn Kauffman’s LinkedIn. To learn more about Vaughn, connect with him on LinkedIn, or Twitter

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