The rise of health and fitness wearables

There's been a healthy spike in the use of fitness devices--one recent survey found that 33 percent of U.S. broadband households has at least one, up from 26 percent in 2014.

Increased use of high-speed Internet may be one reason for that jump, but the top driver, according to Harry Wang, director of mobile and health products research at Parks Associates, is that the devices are becoming more personal and more customized.

Wang tells FierceMobileHealthcare that device makers have found that more sophisticated features and functionality drive consumer interest and use. That's critical, as the devices must be used consistently in order to be effective.

An earlier report this year noted that many people drop their fitness devices into a drawer after about six months. But Wang's research shows that trend is changing.

"Our survey data indicate usage stoppage or drop below once a month is only 12 percent among users," Wang says. Improved features and the slow but steady increase in payers and providers offering up incentives helps.

But Wang also says there's no secret to boosting the use of fitness devices. It's all about a combination of factors. That includes developers understanding users' behaviors and habits.

As I've mentioned in previous columns, a key part of that is including the caregiver population. Doctors and nurses who really know their patients are the best authority when it comes to encouraging device use for proactive and responsive healthcare.

On a final note, the holiday season will definitely boost fitness device adoption, Wang says. They make good stocking stuffers, and he predicts devices will hit a new sales record by the end of the year.

Is a shiny new wearable on your wish list? Do you expect to use it for more than six months? I'd love to hear your feedback on what you think it will take to drive mHealth device adoption as the new year arrives. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)