Design, Engagement Key to Wearable Fitness Trackers

To benefit from fitness trackers, people need to start consistently wearing them, three researchers argue in a JAMA Viewpoint, The Atlantic reports.
The Viewpoint -- which was written by Mitesh Patel, David Asch and Kevin Volpp from the University of Pennsylvania -- noted that while the wearables market is expected to reach $50 billion by 2018, only about 1% to 2% of Americans use such devices. The viewpoint added that those who have fitness trackers are not typically the ones who need the most help losing weight -- half are under age 35 and almost one-third make more than $100,000 per year.
The authors argued that if the devices are to succeed at helping people lose weight, "they either need to create enduring new habits, turning external motivations into internal ones (which is difficult), or they need to sustain their external motivation (which is also difficult)" (Khazan, The Atlantic, 1/12).
Specifically, the authors list four challenges that must be addressed for wearables to promote a healthy life style change:

  1. A person must be personally motivated to want a wearable and be able to afford it;
  2. A person needs to remember to wear the purchased device and recharge it;
  3. The device must be able to accurately track its targeted behavior;
  4. The data collected by the device must be displayed in an easy-to-read format (Goth, Health Data Management, 1/13).

The authors wrote, "Although wearable devices have the potential to facilitate health behavior change ... 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."  The concluded, "Ultimately, it is the engagement strategies -- the combinations of individual encouragement, social competition and collaboration, and effective feedback loops -- that connect with human behavior" (Patel et al., JAMA, 1/8).
Source: iHealthBeat, Wednesday, January 14, 2015

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