The release of many new wearable healthcare devices has led researchers to investigate the potential benefits of these gadgets. Between fitness watches and mobile health (mHealth) apps, consumers may soon be armed with all the tools they need to monitor and improve their health. However, a new study indicated that these devices alone are not enough to inspire patients to change their behaviors and improve their health.
MHealth devices are not enough
Industry experts seem to believe that patients need to do more than simply use a wearable device if they want to see notable health benefits. A group of doctors from the University of Pennsylvania explained these concerns in a viewpoint piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors noted that wearable devices and mHealth applications should be paired with some sort of engagement strategies. This technique can help patients not only to collect medical data, but also to put it to good use.
"Although wearable devices have the potential to facilitate health behavior change, this change may not be driven by these devices alone," wrote Mitesh Patel, M.D., the study's author. "Ultimately, it's the engagement strategies - the combinations of individual encouragement, social competition and collaboration, and effective feedback loops - that connect with human behavior."
Primary care physicians may play a significant role in helping patients put this type of data to good use. If mHealth apps and wearable devices are synced with electronic health records, doctors may be able to provide the feedback and motivation that individuals need to change poor behaviors. However, this will only be possible if the industry can optimize data security for these types of gadgets.
Data security still a work in progress
The 2015 Accenture Digital Consumer Survey polled 24,000 consumers in 24 countries about their thoughts on new digital tools. The survey revealed that many people plan to invest in a wearable health device in the next few years, but are concerned about the security of their information.
The reported noted that almost 40 percent of respondents plan to buy a wearable health device by 2020. However, 44 percent of individuals said that they are cautious about the information they would share online and 10 percent reported they would never share their personal data.
"The litany of security breaches that have transpired in the past year, combined with consumers growing awareness of how much data is collected about their digital life, are driving growing attention on digital security and data privacy," the report stated.
The industry will need to convince consumers that their medical information will be secure before consumers will be willing to share the data electronically. The task of optimizing data security will likely fall to software developers, but physicians, who many patients view as trustworthy, may be influential in rebuilding consumer confidence. The problems of data security and patient engagement are both barriers that healthcare professionals must overcome if they want patients to make the most of mHealth and wearable devices.