Online tools, wearables can boost patient wellness in the workplace

Use of activity trackers and an Internet-based based platform to promote exercise as part of a corporate workplace wellness effort can motivate employees to be more active, according to a recent study.

The findings, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), reveal user engagement levels increased when employees used a fitness tracking device and the Walkadoo platform in a goal-oriented effort to be more active. With the tools, which included an online portal for updates on progress and email and text messaging, participants were able to assess status of steps and goals in various ways, according to the authors, hailing from Georgetown University Medical Center and other medical institutions.

The study involved 265 employees split into a control group and a treatment group. Those in the latter group were given a free wireless activity tracker and Walkadoo access, while the control group was left to their own initiative regarding activity for a six-week period. Results revealed the treatment group significantly increased steps--up to 970 steps a day--compared to the control group. Yet the study noted all participants benefited from the program.

"Our findings add to the evidence that physical activity interventions can be effective in the workplace where employees tend to sit at their desks for long periods," the study's authors say. "This program was effective despite not being designed specifically or exclusively for workplace implementations."

Consumers increasingly are embracing fitness trackers and more employers are providing such tools to their workforce. A recent survey reported 33 percent of U.S. broadband households had at least one of the devices in 2015. 

Providers are also jumping on the bandwagon. Carolinas HealthCare System deployed a mobile app that collects data from patient mobile devices, tracks and monitors vital signs and activities and allows users to share that data with providers.

The JMIR study notes that while the adaptive walking intervention reaped good results, further study is still needed.

"Programs that can effect change across such an array of active and inactive behaviors could directly impact public health for adults who move too little or sit too much," the authors say. "Such an elusive but promising potential merits additional research and attention."

For more information:
- read the study