Patients on board with health trackers but don't trust consumer wearables, survey finds

Patients who manage chronic conditions are eager to use a monitoring device to manage their health. But consumer smartwatches might not be the answer.

Three in four patients say they would wear a specialized monitoring device only used for their specific condition if prescribed by their doctor, a survey from electronics company Sony found.

Nearly 90% of those surveyed believe they could better manage chronic conditions with a health monitoring device. More than half of patients said they would potentially switch doctors if another doctor prescribed a specialized device, according to the survey of 2,000 people conducted by Sony.

However, while consumer-facing companies like Apple and Fitbit offer wearables with health tracking capabilities, only 28% of patients would trust a consumer device to help manage their chronic condition and 45% said they were unsure, according to the survey.

The survey found that the majority of patients (61%) would feel safer with a health monitoring device provided by their doctor.

Chronic conditions cost the U.S. healthcare system $3.1 trillion in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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About a quarter of patients managing chronic conditions say they've had a health emergency because of not continuously tracking their vitals or measurements. A significant percentage of people (45%) say they regularly forget to take one of their prescription medications or treatments.

Wearable devices hold the potential to reduce the need for costly and complex acute interventions that don’t align with proactive, personalized care models of the future, said Arnol Rios, head of network communications sales and business development in North America for Takeoff Point – a Sony company.

Last year Sony jumped into the mobile health technology market with the launch of a business-to-business wearables solution to rival consumer-facing devices. Sony's mSafety solution combines a connected wearable device with a cloud-based backend solution.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be the tipping point for remote monitoring as health systems across the country rapidly stood up virtual care programs to monitor infected patients from home.

RELATED: Tech experts: Widespread adoption of telemedicine, remote monitoring 'here to stay'

Many industry stakeholders believe virtual tools will become a way of life for patients and will likely replace some in-person care.

Federal policymakers also relaxed restrictions around reimbursement for telehealth and remote monitoring during the health crisis, potentially setting the stage for expanding the use of devices to track health conditions from patients' homes.

"Being able to have multiple data points on patients literally every day, to manage patients with chronic diseases is way more effective than a patient going to see a doctor once every six months to see how their blood pressure or diabetes is doing," said Todd Czartoski, M.D., Providence's chief executive of telehealth and chief medical technology officer, during a recent Fierce Healthcare virtual event.

Despite advances in technology, patients struggle with managing chronic conditions, the survey found. Three in 10 people managing chronic conditions have difficulty tracking vitals and other important measurements and one in three are stressed about keeping up with or misreporting their vitals. 

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Only 20 percent of people said they have been prescribed a specialized wearable to monitor their condition.

Regularly visiting the doctor for routine visits and personal health data gathering can be cumbersome and costly on patients with chronic conditions, forcing many to skip visits altogether. Nearly half of people said they would physically visit the doctor less if they could share health data digitally and one-third of patients would cut three to four doctor visits a year.

By excluding those 65 and older, about 60% would go to the doctor in person less if they could share personal health information remotely, highlighting that younger patients will increasingly demand more health monitoring.