Wearables about engaging users, human behavior connection

Wearables pose big promise in mHealth, but success won't be tied to features and functionality, instead it will be about connecting and engaging users, according to a new article published at The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

While wearable development is moving at the speed of light, true consumer health behavior change will only come if the technology engages users through several strategies, writes Mitesh S. Patel, M.D., lead author of the article.

"Although wearable devices have the potential to facilitate health behavior change, this change might not be driven by these devices alone," Patel writes. "Instead, the successful use and potential health benefits related to these devices depend more on the design of the engagement strategies than on the features of their technology."

Throughout 2014 mHealth wearables moved from Google Glass being used in pediatric surgeries at Oliver Muensterer of Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York to a successful pilot program of the tech at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's emergency department.

But the advancements don't come without concerns and worries. Greater insight and clinical evidence of potential benefit is required, Steven Steinhubl, digital medicine program director at Scripps Translational Science Institute, recently told mHealth News. And a recent PwC Health Research Institute report found that true device adoption will only come when developers offer affordable solutions that provide greater value.

Patel, who notes wearable annual sales are projected to increase to more than $50 billion by 2018, says that while the tools are useful in recording and reporting data on behaviors from sleep to exercise, there is a divide that needs to be addressed.

"The gap between recording information and changing behavior is substantial, however, and while these devices are increasing in popularity, little evidence suggests that they are bridging that gap," he writes.

"Using wearable devices to effectively promote health behavior change is a complex, multistep process. Ultimately, it is the engagement strategies--the combinations of individual encouragement, social competition and collaboration, and effective feedback loops--that connect with human behavior."

For more information:
- read the JAMA report

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