Kantar Health Blog

Will people keep using their m-health devices after the novelty wears off?

by Brian Mondry | Mar 10, 2015
Brian Mondry

The general consensus is that web-connected technology that enables better personal health and wellness will be widely adopted globally. This optimism is not unwarranted, especially because the likes of Apple, Google, Samsung and Qualcomm have entered the space and are building the quantified self platforms that will enable consumers to easily and effectively manage and analyze the data coming from a wide range of quantified self devices. Juniper Research projects the space will generate $53.2 billion in revenue by 2019, with the number of fitness devices alone tripling from an estimated 19 million in 2014.

Health e-connectivity technology and its users need to be separated into two categories: general health and wellness, where people can afford to be lackadaisical, and chronic disease management, where non-usage can be a matter of life and death. Of course, there is overlap between connected devices that are used for general wellness and those for more chronic conditions. A fitness enthusiast would be as interested in tracking heart rate via a biosensor as a heart attack survivor would be. But implications of non-usage are vastly different between these two groups.

  • General health and wellness quantified self technology can be adopted by anyone who is looking to maintain or improve overall health and fitness. This ranges from someone looking to lose weight and track simple activity metrics such as daily steps taken, to fitness enthusiasts who might combine basic activity tracking with monitoring of heart rate and BMI. Sleep and diet activity tracking, both passively collected and self-reported, also would fall under this category.
  • Chronic disease management quantified self technology, on the other hand, would be adopted by or, perhaps in the near future, prescribed to patients with conditions such as COPD, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and serious obesity. This is by far the more important category with implications that extend way beyond personal health to the future of the healthcare, insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Much as drug non-adherence has a devastating impact on health and healthcare costs, soon we may be calculating the spiraling costs associated with non-adherence around quantified self technology.

It seems like the forces are aligned to create a perfect storm that will result in a quantified self world where we are all wiser about the internal workings of our body and all the healthier for it! But wait…

The projected shipments and growing infrastructure support the optimism around future growth in terms of adoption, but not retention. Thought must be paid to whether these devices, once bought, will actually be thoroughly integrated into consumers’ lifestyles. I see definite parallels with the mobile health application space, where apps for everything from calorie tracking to medication adherence are downloaded but not actively used by the majority of people who download them. Already, a large percentage of purchased Fitbits are gathering dust in dresser drawers worldwide after a mere few weeks of actual usage. So perhaps if you build it, the people will come. But will they actually stay?

I will provide my thoughts on how to maximize m-health device and app usage in my next blog post.

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