on January 20th, 2015 No Comments
“Wearable devices” are pieces of technology that are worn in clothes or accessories, and they often have biometric functionality – they can measure and record heart rates, steps taken, temperature, or sleep habits. Numerous tech companies have begun manufacturing and marketing such devices, which are part of a larger movement often referred to as the “quantified self” – where data about one’s life is meticulously gathered and recorded. Only 1% to 2% of Americans have used a wearable device, but annual sales are projected to increase to more than $50 billion by 2018.
Health and fitness apps are also proliferating, from software that maps where you run or provides a digital workout community, to programs that count calories or suggest how to improve your sleep. But what’s the real impact for people’s health?
Earlier this month, a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association called into question the idea that wearable devices will effect population-scale changes in health. There is a big gap, the authors claim, between recording health information and changing health behavior, and little evidence suggests that this gap is being bridged. Wearable devices might be seen as facilitating change, but not driving it. and colleagues wrote:
Ultimately, it is the engagement strategies—the combinations of individual encouragement, social competition and collaboration, and effective feedback loops—that connect with human behavior.
The difficulty of population health is that changes have to be sustained to have meaningful effects, and that is quite difficult. The authors identify four steps that must be taken to bridge this gap towards sustained change.