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Philips’ Study Reveals That Folks Get Bored of Wearables Within a Few Months

If you have an internet-connected fitness band or watch, you’ve no doubt wondered if it’s all worth it, even if you’re a hardcore workout fanatic. Remembering to charge and wear the band, making sure you’re manually entering meal and workout data not recorded automatically every day, checking the automatic data to make sure it’s reasonably accurate — it’s a process many people (myself included) find a bit tiring. If you’ve ever felt like this, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Earlier this year, electronics and healthcare technology giant Philips commissioned a study of over 25,000 patients and 2,600 healthcare providers across 13 countries to study their opinions on the present and future of connected care. The results were released last week as part of Philips’ Future Health Index and its corresponding U.S. report entitled “Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Healthcare,”  and when it comes to health trackers and wearables, the results may or may not surprise you:

“When asked how long they regularly used a device to track physical activity, slightly more than half of respondents (54%) replied ‘less than three months,’ and fewer than a quarter (23%) said ‘three to six months.’ In total, 77% of respondents used their wearable to track physical activity for only six or fewer months”

Even with smaller and smarter devices, better software with pop-up notifications, social sharing and interaction, and all sorts of health data visualizations, most people aren’t getting the most out of their devices. Our junk drawers, however, seem to be doing just fine.

“When asked why they stopped using the device, more than half (54%) said they just ‘lost interest in using the device.’”

One of the biggest changes the study predicts is that activities that traditionally take place periodically in the doctor’s office — collecting samples and running tests — are going to be done continuously and remotely, as necessary. With more and more Americans suffering from at least one chronic disease and even more showing pre-disease indications, having reliable, real-time health data can help us make smarter lifestyle decisions and help our doctors better track, treat, and hopefully prevent health issues.

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Philips’ three-pronged approach to personal connected health is built around this shift. It’s also particularly unique because it’s all about long-term total health, not just tracking daily exercise or activity. Philips’ solutions are based on the “3 M’s”: start measuring, keep monitoring, and stay motivated. Wearables and other connected devices (scales, blood pressure monitors, ear thermometers, and, of course, watches) collect our vital signs and sync them with cloud-based software that we (and eventually, our healthcare providers) can access via smartphone and web-based apps. The apps provide encouragement, information, and even scolding (!!!) to help us turn all of that data into the small lifestyle decisions that lead to healthy long-term habits without having to depend on our devices.

As the study says:

“Ultimately, the goal of a health app or fitness wearable will be to make itself redundant, not to build dependency”

We had a chance to see the new Philips mobile health app in simulation mode, although we didn’t get to test it ourselves. The interface is simple and uncluttered, with a dashboard that displays different data based on the user’s particular health goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, for example, then weight, calories consumed and calories burned will be at the top of the screen, while blood pressure will be towards the bottom. There’s also a news feed feature that seems to combine your health data and progress with reminders, motivators, and relevant tips, like advice on how to get better sleep if you’re not sleeping well.

The app won’t be available for a few more months, but from what we’ve seen so far, we think Philips’ approach to personal connected health could be a game-changer in the wearables and software space.

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