Eight reasons why doctors recommend health wearables to patients

Wearable health devices and health apps are stealing headlines left and right. It seems there are daily announcements from major brands about their latest wearable tech. With each announcement the headlines skew more towards how it looks than functionality. Lost in all the hype is the core purpose of wearable health trackers and health apps— that they’re intended to improve our health. Looks and brand names are fine, and battery life needs to be considered. But how are these things going to improve my health?

According to Nielsen, one in six consumers already own a wearable device. However, when we polled our community of doctors, we found that over 60% of them say that they would recommend wearable health trackers and health apps to their patients for daily use. We then decided to dig a little deeper and find out why our doctors would recommend these to their patients. While we anticipated responses around the topic of ‘fitness,’ we were intrigued to see such a broad range of reasons given. Below is a select sampling of some of the answers our doctors provided:

1.Self-awareness

“Seeing is believing. Most patients think they are more active, and argue that their diet is not as high [in] fat and carbs as is evident in labs and poor overall health. Any practice that can improve patient care, and empower them to lead the way I will stand behind.”

2.Data quality

“Wearing a health tracking device could provide important information about my patients’ daily lives - lifestyle issues, nutrition, and health - that are either difficult or impossible to track. Because it is often difficult for individuals to provide subjective information about themselves, these devices could be a great addition to providing quality medical care.”

3.Weight loss

“The two reasons that anyone should be conscious about their weight are the stats that go with obesity. The CDC list the following as reasons that we should be monitoring our health: ‘More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese…Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.’”

As someone in the health care field we all are concerned about the rising cost of health care. The CDC had this stat that I find very telling of the cost of obesity: ‘The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.’ That is why we should recommend to patients that they use a wearable health tracking device or app on a daily basis.”

4.Health management

“We are a pain/physical therapy office and most patients come in with knee and other joint problems. On average, patients are overweight due to the pain, preventing patients from living an active life style. This type of device would help remind them to set goals and achieve better results.”

5.Trend identification

“When you are more active you are allowed a higher caloric intake, when you are less active you have to have a lower caloric intake. When you monitor your activities you are better able to determine what you should be taking in on a regular basis. It also helps to see patterns, when you are depressed, you are less active, when you are angry, you are more active. Monitoring your activities would help people to become healthier in their lives, and in turn become happier as well.”

6.Motivation

“I believe it would motivate them to exercise on a regular basis and adhere to a healthy diet, which could ultimately lead to decreased risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack.”

7.Adherence

“For diabetic and obese patient this gadget will help them to adhere to exercise regimen and be motivated to participate.”

8.Accountability

“To assist with accountability for daily health and wellness. Although these devices can be expensive - they can be helpful for reality checking as to how much movement each is getting daily.”