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Do Fitness Trackers Improve Patient Health?

According to Endeavor Partners, a firm that consults in digital and mobile technology, many of your patients have a fitness tracker—one in ten American adults as of September 2013—however, about one-third give up use of those trackers after six months.

A follow up report asserts that despite this drop-off, the market for wearable fitness trackers and smart watches remains highly visible partly because:

“These products are positioned with the promise of better health, better fitness, higher productivity, better sleep, etc. and naturally generate intrigue amongst consumers, most of whom have no prior experience with this category.”

The difficulties inherent in using gadgets such as these to promote a change in health behavior were outlined in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association editorial.

The patient must:

  • be motivated to exercise
  • remember to wear the device
  • keep the device charged
  • transfer data to smartphone or computer

And the fitness tracker must:

  • be affordable
  • track the exercise behavior accurately
  • provide understandable data

In conclusion, the authors of the editorial assert that “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.” In other words, motivating individual patients to keep exercising and keep charting their progress requires more than the purchase of a fitness tracker.