7 Trends Driving Physician Adoption of Wearables

Physicians are becoming increasingly interested in the data provided by wearables. Why?

Beside my discussions about Personally Generated Health Data, here are Mark’s reasons! I talk about each of these in some various forms in the new HELO into Healthcare Manifesto. Check it out as well.

1. Adoption of wearables is growing, and is expected to continue to do so. Approximately 10% of the US adult population owned a wearable in 2016 and that percentage is expected to double by 2021. It’s hard to ignore that more and more patients are walking in with a wearable, and many physicians are themselves wearing them.

2. Value-based reimbursement is making the information more relevant. Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), where physicians are reimbursed at one rate when they meet target therapeutic goals, and another lesser rate when they don’t meet these goals, incentivizes physicians to think and act more holistically when treating their patients. While they won’t be reimbursed for reading wearable data, they will be reimbursed for the resulting health benefits that exercise and sleep (as an example) have on the conditions they treat.

3. Clinical trial adoption. If physicians aren’t believers yet, the increasing number of clinical trials that incorporate wearables is likely to convince them as more and more of this data is leveraged in clinical journals and eventually in drug rep sales calls. A report by Bloomberg indicated that almost 300 clinical trials have incorporated devices into their trials. As of March of 2016, 21 clinical trials involved the Fitbit alone according to clinicaltrials.gov.

4. The data is relevant to virtually every chronic condition. Almost every health condition can result in decreased movement or adversely impacts sleep. Conversely, increased movement and healthier sleep patterns both have a positive impact on these same conditions.

5. “Medical grade” wearables are on the rise­—devices such as those from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Empatica, which is developing a wearable intended to alert the wearer and their loved ones to the pending onset of a seizure—are growing and becoming ever more versatile in their application. Their device is also being studied as a predictor of depressive episodes and even heart attacks. These “medical grade” wearables are adding both application and credibility to the overall wearables market. [And of course our own HEKA H4G for Glucose monitoring!]

6. It can impact treatment. A case reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine showcased how Fitbit data, for a patient admitted to the ER, was able to alert a physician to the specific onset and length of a patient’s atrial fibrillation. Patients with atrial fibrillation are at increased risk of stroke. If the abnormal heartbeat continues for more than 48 hours, the risk for a blood clot and resulting stroke is extremely high. The treatment is very different vs a patient where the fibrillation onset was more recent. In this case, the doctor used the data stored on the patient’s phone and was able to determine that fibrillation had begun within the last two hours. This allowed the patient to avoid being admitted to the hospital and was sent home after appropriate treatment.

7. Insurance companies are watching. Both employers and insurance companies are looking to improve the activity levels of members/employees. Corporate wellness programs are on the rise. According to a Duke University study, obesity costs US employers $73+ billion per year between increased medical expenses and lost productivity. Researchers estimate that obese employees cost their employers more than twice as much in healthcare related costs vs non obese employees. As a result, large companies such as Target, which purchased 335,000 Fitbits for their US employees, and IBM, which purchased 40,000 units, are helping to fuel the growth of wearables. In fact, it is estimated that in 2018, more than 13 million trackers will be in use by corporate wellness programs. More active and healthier employees save employers money on indirect costs, such as lost productivity, and increasingly on employee health benefits. With insurance companies taking note, doctors are sure to continue to follow!

Written by my friend:

 EVP, Director of Client Services, Guidemark Health