Adoption of Health Apps, Wearable Devices Grows

An Accenture report found that the vast majority of consumers and doctors believe wearables help patients engage in their health.

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The number of U.S. consumers using wearables and mobile apps for managing their health has doubled from 16 percent in 2014 to 33 percent today.

The findings are part of a seven-country Accenture survey of roughly 8,000 consumers, including 2,225 in the United States.

The majority of both consumers (77 percent) and doctors (85 percent), the reported found, said that using wearables helps a patient engage in his or her health.

In addition, four in 10 consumers who use health apps said they have discussed or shared mobile app data with their doctor in the past year.

Of the one in five consumers who were asked by a doctor to use wearables to track their health, such as fitness or vital signs, three-quarters (76 percent) followed their physician's recommendation.

"Overall, as wearable devices and health apps become more popular, they also face some criticism. For example, some say wearables lack the ability to keep consumers' attention in the long run—perhaps they use it for a few months and then it becomes less consistent," Dr. Kaveh Safavi, senior managing director for Accenture's global health care business, told eWEEK. "Others have noted potential privacy concerns associated with data sharing and tracking of this sort, or the pitfalls of a lack of true interoperability between consumers, health care providers and other key parties at this time."

We live in an age where technology is constantly changing, and so are privacy and security measures to protect consumers using the new devices and apps, Safavi said.

"Cyber-security is a real consideration in health care," he said. "Accenture estimated in October 2015 that one in 13 patients—25 million people—will have personal information like Social Security or financial records stolen from technology systems over the next five years."

Consumers most frequently use health apps for fitness (cited by 59 percent of respondents), diet/nutrition (52 percent), symptom navigation (36 percent) and accessing their patient portal (28 percent).

While the vast majority (90 percent) of consumers said they would be willing to share wearable or app data with medical providers, far fewer said they would be willing to share that data with their health plans (63 percent) or employers (31 percent).

"Adoption rates of health apps and wearables over the past two years have been significant, showing that patients are leading the way in using digital tools to manage their own health," Safavi said. "U.S. consumers continue to demand a digitally-enabled health care experience, yet health care falls behind many other industries in making this available to them. That said, to get ahead, providers can invest in digital tools and strategies to better adapt to consumers' changing expectations."