Patients will use health wearables to reduce trips to the doctor: survey

Can an Apple on your wrist keep the doctor away?

Turns out, patients might be more willing to wear an Apple Watch, or some other sort of wearable, if it means fewer trips to see the doctor, according to a survey from VivaLNK, a connected healthcare solutions company.

Hospitals and health systems are testing out health wearable devices to monitor patients’ health. But the monitoring programs only work if patients use them.

About two-thirds of patients surveyed (64%) said they would utilize a wearable health monitoring device if it meant it could reduce the number of times they had to physically visit a doctor or hospital.

Just over half of the surveyed patients (55%) visit a physician or specialist more than once per year, 27% visit just once per year and 16% only make an appointment when an issue arises, according to the survey. 

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The survey identified three key factors contributing to participants’ desire to reduce in-person appointments with their physicians: costs, distance and disliking healthcare facilities.

Patient interest in wearable health devices for remote patient monitoring is high regardless of whether the use of the device reduces visits, the survey found, as more than 55% of respondents said they would use a wearable health monitoring device at home. 

In 2017, 24% of adults reported using wearable devices, according to a report on the role of mobile apps and wearable devices in healthcare written by physician researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and published in JAMA.

survey of hospital executives from HIMSS and AT&T found 47% of hospitals are providing wearables to patients with chronic diseases and 47% also are conducting remote monitoring via in-home medical devices and smartphone apps.

RELATED: More wearables shift from fitness to clinical use with new Samsung and AT&T smartwatches

Consumer wearables from Apple and Fitbit offer health tracking features and the new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active promises a blood pressure monitoring feature. Other companies are getting into the space. OneLife Technologies, a mobile medical software and data collection company, teamed up with AT&T to launch the OnePulse smartwatch to be used for remote patient monitoring.

Many health insurers are offering enrollees discounts on wearable devices or premiums for using mobile health devices. John Hancock introduced fitness-tracking into its life insurance policy in 2015.

Similarly, UnitedHealthcare has partnered with Fitbit and Apple Watch to launch its Motion program, which offers monetary rewards. Aetna, Qantas Assure and Oscar Health also offer physical activity incentives into their policies.

One study found a link between the use of digital health activity trackers and medication adherence. Patients with diabetes and hypertension who use digital health activity trackers such as Fitbit or Apple Watch are more likely to take their medications as prescribed, according to the study by Evidation Health.

In the BIDMC report published in JAMA, both commercial and Medicaid managed care plans reported that engaging patients to use virtual care was a key challenge toward full adoption and integration.

RELATED: Payers ready for digital care, but obstacles remain

“Remote patient monitoring and the wearable devices that make it possible are not new concepts, but there’s more progress that can be made by understanding patient motivations," Jiang Li, CEO of VivaLNK, said in a statement.

"This survey highlights what really fuels and drives consumer behavior from a healthcare perspective. Patients have always disliked visiting the doctor’s office and now there’s a way to mitigate that. While the appointment can’t always be avoided, remote patient monitoring is the key to reducing the time, energy and money it takes to physically visit a doctor’s office,” Li said.