Taking a comprehensive look at the current state of wearable health technology, researchers reviewed 20 studies from Europe and the United States that focus on wearables. They published their results in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. So what conclusions did they draw? The researchers grouped their findings into three themes: barriers to wearables, the role of and benefits to providers for promoting wearables, and wearables as drivers of behavioral change. 

As for barriers, simple human error and common human behavior took the brunt of the blame; forgetting to wear devices, losing them, and losing interest were cited as major impediments to the adoption and use of wearable tech. Some users showed concern about the accuracy of devices, while others pointed to cost as a barrier to wearables. Stigma concerns — such as those felt by overweight children wearing activity trackers — raised some red flags. And there were also feelings of fatigue associated with the use of wearable technology. 

Regarding the role healthcare providers play, there’s a disparity between willingness to follow the advice of medical professionals and the number of professionals who recommend wearables. While about half of the people surveyed said they would be more attentive to their health with encouragement from providers, only about 10% of respondents say their providers encourage the use of digital healthcare tools. The takeaway is clear; increased recommendation of wearables would increase wearables use. 

How do wearables benefit the symbiotic relationship between patient and provider? It’s no surprise that remote patient monitoring ranked high among the benefits for clinicians. Then there is the benefit that healthcare providers can use the patient information that wearables gather in myriad ways, from risk assessment to early intervention and more. Patients like the idea of giving hard data to their healthcare providers rather than relying on having to explain their subjective descriptions of their physical experiences. And wearables help to inform patients, giving them knowledge that’s valuable when communicating with their providers. 

Do wearables drive behavior change? Perhaps. The examination of wearables studies found that behavior change depends on the patient and the context, noting “[Patients] may require additional support in the form of behavioral counseling [to] ensure that patients receive appropriate support, as individuals whose motivational profiles are not matched to the wearable device may become demotivated and experience negative emotions from persistently failing to meet goals.”