Wearables Have Entered the Healthcare Space – and They’re Here to Stay

January 29, 2020 - 7 minutes read

Healthcare wearables are a growing market for consumers. These devices, manufactured and developed by the likes of Garmin, Fitbit, and Apple, show a person’s heart rate, steps, sleep quality, and more in real-time. Whether you’re health-conscious or fitness-minded, wearables now offer something for everyone.

Consequently, more consumers than ever before are using wearables to track their daily activities. In fact, it’s safe to say that wearables are mainstream now: more than 80% of consumers are reportedly willing to wear wearables. Experts forecasted that the wearables global market was expected to grow by 15.3% by the end of 2019.

What’s more: businesses are taking a keen interest in consumers’ health data. Google recently bought Fitbit and had the forethought to promise that they wouldn’t sell Fitbit customers’ data to advertisers. And numerous other companies are giving their employees wearables to garner health insurance discounts.

Fitness Trackers Still Dominate

People really seem to enjoy smartwatches and fitness trackers. These devices have and will continue to dominate the consumer wearables market for the foreseeable future, even if the market sees an increased variety of products offered.

Although Fitbit launched the first major wearable in 2009, their devices didn’t become more popular until 2013. In 2014, Fitbit held the majority of the market share for fitness trackers. But with Apple Watch’s launch in 2015, Fitbit had strong competition. Apple eventually out-sold Fitbit in 2017, and they’ve been the market leader since then.

According to a report by the International Data Corporation, wristbands will hit a wall with consumers, but smartwatch popularity will keep growing. By 2023, it is estimated that watches will take up about 50% of the overall wearables market, and the market will grow to $54 billion.

We’ve also seen a surge in established companies entering the wearables market: Fossil, Kate Spade, and even Louis Vuitton have a small portion of the market with their smartwatches. There’s no stopping the proliferation of fitness trackers now.

Fitness Trackers’ Many Features

More than half of the people surveyed who were interested in wearing a wearable were interested in the fitness and health tracking features.

With improved battery life, lighter devices, and more features than ever (including stress tracking), consumers are likely to put on their device and rarely take it off.

The apps that go along with the wearables give the consumer deeper insights, recommendations, and improved food and water tracking. This alone adds more value to the device.

Another feature that many consumers utilize is “family”-based competitions, encouragement, and data sharing. It’s been shown that it’s easier to meet fitness and lifestyle goals with a support network, and this set-up goes a long way.

New wearables also give real-time alerts for movement and breathing. If the device notices an elevated heart rate, it may ask you to step away and take a few deep breaths. Or if you haven’t gotten up from your office chair in the past hour, it may give you a reminder before the hour ends to get in a certain number of steps.

The Health Insurance Angle

Health insurance companies are offering companies the chance to lower their costs by giving employees wearables. Each employee gets a healthcare plan catered to them, which removes many costs for companies and insurers.

Insurance companies look primarily at steps, activity levels, blood pressure, and more to determine what levels of discounts to offer.

In 2019, medical development company Omron Healthcare launched the first wearable that measures blood pressure, named HeartGuide. It also tracks activity levels. Users have to transfer the device’s data to the HeartAdvisor mobile app, which gives the user a summary and analysis so they can review, optimize, and compare their stats.

Boston-based life insurance company John Hancock is adapting to the changing times. The company said they’ll no longer sell traditional life insurance policies; instead, they’ll track fitness and health using wearables, giving premium discounts and gift cards to policyholders who meet exercise targets. Customers with high-risk habits, like smoking, will get higher bills to pay.

Doctor-Patient Interaction

Wearables are changing the patient experience. Doctors can track their patients’ habits remotely. They can even pull stats from the wearable instead of having the patient come to the office to measure blood pressure. This workflow reduces re-admission and transportation costs.

Doctors can also use wearables data to personalize treatment plans, modify treatments as needed, and make better decisions about which patients actually need treatment. Wearables data can show anomalies in patient health, and it removes the need for doctors to rely on patients to self-report symptoms.

The best part is the longer that the patient wears their wearable, the more comprehensive their medical history and dataset will be.

By adding wearables to their workflow, providers can save a lot of time and money that would otherwise be spent on seeing patients face-to-face to dedicate toward better work-life balance, more time in reviewing patient charts, and better experience with population trends over time.

The Wearables War Wages On

More and more companies are introducing new wearables into the market. And for consumers, this is great: more diversity in features, better integrations with their health insurer, and lower costs overall due to increased competition.

Wearables, other than their data privacy concern, offer no consequences to their user and can instead completely transform how someone views their body, mind, sleep, health, and fitness.

Do you own a smartwatch or wearable? Which one, and what feature is your favorite? Let us know about your experience with wearables in the comments below!

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