Wear good health on your sleeve

In early adopter social circles wearables aren’t just useful — they’re fashionable. They’re novel. Fitbit offers its trackable tech in a variety of colors from lime to pink and now, according to the website,  “double-wrap leather bracelets”.

Wearables like the Apple Watch are trendy, but if they remain positioned solely for use by tech adopters and athletes to track fitness data, their staying power is questionable. A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers found fewer than 50% of people who own a wearable use it daily.

An assertion by J.C. Herz in a Wired Magazine article begs commentary. Herz argues that wearables are actually failing the people who need them most: sufferers of chronic disease including emphysema, diabetes or congestive heart failure. With a $2 trillion-a-year price tag to maintain chronic illnesses, any options to decrease cost while elevating patient outcomes are worth exploration.

So we asked one wearable-enthusiast and MentorMate Sr. Software Engineer Chris Black just how can wearables outlive their “novelty-factory” and become integrated as a tool to monitor patient outcomes?

People should want to wear them for more than utility.

Unlike smartphones, wearables are (implicit in their name) visible on your person. The style of the technology then becomes important. It’s in front of others, so wearers are more selective about aesthetics.

Apple Watch may help overcome this, as the brand has traditionally been more focused on style than other tech brands. Although, the Android Wear LG Urbane watch comes closer to matching Apple in style.

They must add staying value rather than serving as a motivation and feel non-intrusive.

For many and much like a personal trainer, Fitbits serve as inspiration to go to the gym and tackle a health goal. Then, once that goal is accomplished, usage can diminish. Wearables are ever-present and offer the opportunity for quick check-ins with patients that take virtually no time. If used, they have the potential to add value in chronic care maintenance and offer practitioners daily insight to patient care. Should an app allow care providers to contact patients with quick care questions, it’s easier to tap “yes” or “no” to answer on a watch rather than digging to find a smartphone in a bag.

Developers must consider wearable integration early on.

Considering how vital patient information is collected via an app and works in harmony with a wearable should happen early in the iterative process to ensure the experience is simple and seamless for the user.

Will wearable tech push past the current niche market? That’s up to the next generation of digital health innovators to decide.