The missed opportunity regarding wearables

There is continuous dialogue and discourse about engaging consumers and patients when it comes to mobile healthcare technology. A good majority--well nearly all of it--tends to target patient-physician or patient-payer interactions as the top, if not sole, strategies.

But, as I learned the past few weeks, there might just be as big a focal point outside of the healthcare environment that could prove much more successful; it's one where the participants are clearly engaged in wellness and already taking a proactive step in their health management.

I'm talking about the fitness centers, the gyms and the training rooms; the kickboxing, karate and yoga studios that abound everywhere these days.

Yet, in the more than half dozen fitness environments I've checked out over the past few weeks (in a quest to get proactive in my own health) none went further than displaying one or two brand-name mobile devices to track and monitor activity levels.

The first step on my mHealth journey, which I chronicled in this space last month, was purchasing such a device. As I shared, the experience hasn't been so great. It's partially a user interface issue, as well as a learning curve issue and likely overly big expectations about the technology we see coming to market and into our lives. That's why, as I checked out potential activity centers I also checked on what they were doing with such devices, if they were incorporating them into programs, or if they even sold them or had any programs that required them.

Pretty much the answer is no. One national fitness center chain did have a few (actually, just two) wearables in a display case that also housed nutrition bars and weight lifting gloves and was situated in the café area.

It left me a bit dumbfounded. I'm no marketing genius but I would think it'd be a win-win for device makers and fitness centers to incorporate wearables and apps into consumer membership in some fashion.

Where else, besides possibly nutritional centers, marathons and weight loss programs, are there so many engaged-in-health consumers within reach? Why are Jawbone, Fitbit or any of the other dozens of device makers--and even smartphone makers--all of which are looking to boost mHealth and lifestyle app sales, not jumping all over these industries?

During my fitness center visits, I couldn't help but notice that nearly everyone had their smartphone either in play (for music or communications) or right next to them as they worked out or ran. In fact, the only patrons I didn't see holding or listening to a smartphone were those playing basketball and racquetball, and those in the pool participating in aqua aerobics.

If vendors, providers, payers and app developers truly are serious about engaging with consumers it's time they got down and sweaty with where they are these days. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)