Mitesh Patel

Apple devices

Indian American assistant professor of medicine and healthcare management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and the Perelman School of Medicine Dr. Mitesh Patel has led a study that provides insight into consumers’ use of wearable devices.

Wearable medical devices have the potential to monitor some of the same biomarkers used in medical laboratory tests today, according to Penn Medicine news release.

The release said that the mobile technologies can make it possible for clinical laboratories to monitor patients in real time, as well as allow labs to incorporate such into a patient’s historical record of lab test results.

The trend toward personalized medicine is increasing, with many payment programs based on it, according to Penn Medicine.

With that in mind, monitoring and correcting activities that cause chronic disease, or work against treatments, is becoming standard procedure for forward-thinking, technically proficient doctors and hospitals.

With the popularity of activity trackers on the rise, researchers, led by Patel, are examining their usage patterns to determine how the devices are being utilized, their target market, and ways to encourage sustained use of the gadgets, it said.

The Patel-led study was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and provided insight regarding who is using this type of wearable device, how activity trackers are being employed and the length of time consumers will maintain their usage, according to the release.

“Many people are excited by the potential of using activity trackers to monitor healthy behaviors, but there is very little evidence on who is using them and whether or not use is sustained over time,” Patel, a graduate of the University of Michigan (bachelor’s and medical degrees), UPenn Perelman School of Medicine (master’s) and UPenn Wharton School of Business (M.B.A.), said in the release. “We found that, though use grew over time, it really varied depending on individual characteristics like age and income. We also found that once someone started using an activity tracker, sustained use at six months was high at 80%.”

To perform the study, 4.4 million members of a national wellness program were invited to take part in data collection, it said.

Approximately 55,000 of those individuals actually participated in the study, which involved downloading an app to record pertinent information. Researchers tracked and interpreted the data during a two-year period in 2014 and 2015, it said.

The results revealed that 80 percent of the people who initially activated the devices were still using them after six months. Only 0.2 percent of the invited individuals used the devices in the first year. However, that number increased to 1.2 percent during the second year, it said.

The usage of wearable activity trackers was nearly double among younger people than it was for older individuals, the results mentioned. A mere 0.1 percent of the potential participants were over 65-years old. However, 90 percent of individuals in this age group were still using the devices six months after initial activation, it noted.

“Gamification and financial incentives are commonly used within wellness programs, but their impact has not been well studied,” Patel added. “Our findings provide initial evidence suggesting that these types of engagement strategies may show promise for keeping sustained use high. However, more studies are needed to determine the best way to combine these types of engagement strategies with activity trackers to improve health outcomes.”

There were 60 different types of wearable activity trackers that could be used by participants for the study. Seventy-six percent of those participants elected to use the FitBit activity tracker. The second most common activity trackers used were Apple devices, which were chosen by 9 percent of the participants.

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