Wearables that produce clinical-grade data cannot play significant roles in wellness programs and chronic condition care plans if patients don’t wear them as prescribed. According to a report by the American College of Preventive Medicine, “Nonadherence is thought to account for 30% to 50% of treatment failures.” The comprehensive study breaks out five general dimensions of compliance. Researchers at the University of Southern California focused on a single compliance issue: patients with wearables sticking to their programs. The study was published in NEJM Catalyst, the New England Journal of Medicine blog.

The study ran for 16 weeks. The 284 participants were USC employees. The subjects wore glasses with embedded sensors that captured daily activity including steps, distance, calories, and active time. The glasses use Bluetooth to transmit the data to smartphones. Free eye exams and prescription eyeglasses were donated to the participant’s choice of an underserved group when subjects met daily steps goals. Participants were all connected to a social network for peer support and connection and also received encouraging prompts with the smartphone app. Following the test period, the participants self-reported on several factors including days of compliance.

Analysis of the data has just started, according to the USC scientists, but 80% of the 275 participants who started the program reported wearing the glasses as prescribed throughout the study.  Many factors correlated with subject participation, including a positive perception of the wearable overall. The most significant correlation for predicting success and the number of daily steps were the subject’s general satisfaction with life. The USC findings reflect other compliance studies’ findings that, stated broadly, positive people comply better than people who are less positive. People with higher levels of emotional stability, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness are also more likely to exercise regularly. Further data breakdown will follow from USC, but the greatest takeaway is patients who rank high in personal positivity have the greatest chance to benefit from wearables. It might seem obvious, but happy people are more likely to go along with recommendations designed to help them.