Wearables, Other mHealth Devices Empowering Users

iPhones: They’re not just for texting. This probably isn’t news to you. But as more and more people have begun using smartphones, studies have found that more than half of the phones’ owners are now using them to gather health-related information, often from wearable wellness devices like the Fitbit, or from other, more specialized devices. What’s more, users are drawing on the data that these tools generate when making decisions about their health care: A recent Ericsson study of consumers around the world demonstrates that, among other things, these mobile health devices are encouraging patients to take control of their health. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, “researchers found that a majority of consumers saw [patient-generated health data] as a way to improve their preventative care needs.”

The study, which involved surveys and focus groups in multiple countries, examined the habits of more than 4,000 smartphone and mobile broadband users. As a group, the researchers note, consumers like this “are demanding greater control over when, where, how and whom to engage for their health care needs.” The increasing availability of wearable devices, along with a rise in providers’ usage of telehealth and remote monitoring technologies, has further cemented patients’ desire to be involved in their own health care decisions—and their faith in these new technologies. Among those Ericsson researchers surveyed, 62 percent believed “that wearable devices will put people in control of their own health,” while 58 percent asserted that the devices would “provide personalized care,” and 60 percent felt that their usage would “lead to a healthier lifestyle.” Respondents also felt strongly about the devices’ potential to bring patient care closer to home (particularly at a time when the overwhelming majority of senior citizens and soon-to-be-seniors have expressed a preference for aging in place), and had strong preferences for centralized health records. Notably, respondents also reported feeling comfortable sharing their health data (with privacy protections in place); 62 percent, for example, said that they would be willing to share data “if it makes health care services more efficient,” and 61 percent would do so “if it improves health care services.”

There are, of course, improvements to be made in the construction of devices, and in the broadband infrastructure that supports their use, if these tools are to reach their full potential. Ericsson researchers also surveyed health care executives and other industry stakeholders, most of whom agreed that there was progress still to be made. “Although consumer-grade wearables are being widely used for preventative measures, 55 percent of health care decision makers from regulatory bodies say these devices are not sufficiently accurate or reliable for diagnosis,” the researchers explain. Indeed, device reliability was also a source of worry for consumers, 59 percent of whom told researchers “that they are concerned about poor connectivity affecting data transmission,” and 56 percent of whom reported that they were worried about battery power. The development of 5G networks, the researchers note, will be crucial to supporting the increased use of mobile health devices—as well as bolstering cybersecurity.

Click here for the article from mHealth Intelligence on the Ericsson study.

Click here for the results of the Ericsson study. 

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