Wearables, including those for medical purposes, have been a vibrant market. However, in early 2020, something went wrong. According to the 2020 Digital Health Consumer Survey by Accenture, wearables usage dramatically decreased from 33% in 2019 to only 18% in March 2020 to stall at that rate in 2021. So why a sudden change of heart in consumers? How can healthcare leaders and medical device software developers mitigate the situation? We will explore these issues in detail.
Defining Health Wearables
A whole range of wearables are now available on the market, including activity trackers (such as smart bands, smart clothing, smart glasses, smart headphones, smart watches, and virtual reality headsets); wearables for remote patient monitoring; and even AI-powered gadgets in sports. But are they all relevant to healthcare? Yes, as long as they support the two main healthcare purposes: treatment and prevention.
But ensuring the adoption of health gadgets requires two major steps:
- Psychographic segmentation of your patients;
- Personal discussion of the digital tools with patients.
Unlike demographic segmentation, which relies on socioeconomic factors (age, gender, occupation, etc.), psychographics looks into cognitive aspects driving human behavior.
It explores such parameters as frequent activities, interests, and opinions (AOIs); emotional responses; and prejudices. A key goal of psychographic segmentation is to divide customers’ behavior into several groups and design messages and marketing campaigns to appeal to each group. Quite often, marketers don’t limit themselves to only psychographics and employ demographic factors to create complete and informative customer profiles.
This approach has proven viable in healthcare. In 2019, PatientBond undertook a nationwide healthcare consumer study, which looked into healthcare technology and wearables, among other topics. To come up with their psychographic segmentation model, the team interviewed more than 4,000 U.S. adults who were to agree or disagree with the statements provided. The study revealed five distinct groups of patients:
- Self-Achievers (19%): This subgroup is the most proactive about their health and the least price-sensitive. Motivated by goals and achievements, they are eager to be in charge of their health.
- Balance Seekers (17%): This subgroup is also proactive with their health and wellness-oriented. Balance seekers are more likely to recur to alternative or holistic medicine than other subgroups. Naturally independent, they put less emphasis on the role of healthcare professionals.
- Priority Jugglers (18%): This subgroup is very busy with many responsibilities they manage successfully. Reactive with their own health issues, they become proactive in addressing their family’s health.
- Direction Takers (15%): This subgroup looks for directive instructions from their care providers and values credentials. At the same time, if they don’t understand the recommendation and their benefits in full, they won’t adhere to it.
- Willful Endurers (31%): This subgroup is the largest and the least involved in their care. Living in the “here and now,” they go to the doctor only when they have to. Self-reliant, they follow their doctor’s recommendations only if the doctors clearly explain subsequent health benefits to them.
Following their methodology, PatientBond offered to use three communication tools to appeal to patients in each segment:
- Email for Self-Achievers
- A digital platform for Balance Seekers and Priority Jugglers
- Interactive voice response for Direction Takers and Willful Endurers
However, even a carefully targeted offer might not be sufficient to fuel the adoption of health wearables, so it’s better to take precautions and proceed with the second step.
Spreading the Word
In view of the new trends in health technology adoption spurred by the pandemic, Accenture reconsidered its 2020 Digital Health Consumer Survey. The team came to a surprising conclusion: 55% of the surveyed patients claimed they would manage their health proactively if a trusted clinician motivated them. At the same time, only 11% of respondents reported their doctors recommended a relevant health technology. These statistics give some food for thought.
It’s common knowledge that doctors suffer from overload, and adopting new technologies takes time. To reduce the load, clinicians can discuss the provider’s digital tools during a face-to-face or virtual appointment, taking a cooperative approach and educating patients about the gadgets available and the data they track.
Focus on Safety
Health wearables are also subject to some concerns that companies should address that could impact adoption. First, they collect sensitive personal data, which makes them vulnerable to hacking attacks. Second, they are connected 24/7, and not all connections are safely sealed from malicious intruders either.
Therefore, the provider and the wearables vendor should take extra steps and ensure the devices don’t leak any protected health information (PHI).
Vendors should ensure data transmission is secured. One of the ways to do it is by creating unique digital signatures for connected devices and enabling encrypted communication between them with private keys.
Companies that market wearables should also run penetration testing to identify security loopholes. Clinicians and patients could also consider some precautions. They can monitor their device behavior to detect suspicious activities, for instance, a sudden increase in the volume of mobile data transmitted. It would also be wise to avoid public Wi-Fi networks and access the internet only in secure environments.
The value of health wearables has not been fully recognized by health leaders and, consequently, by their patients.
To change the situation, providers need to take a three-step approach:
- Psychographic segmentation: Psychographics allows providers to explore their customers’ behavior, single out several trends, and subdivide the customers accordingly. Moreover, it helps providers work out messages and campaigns that resonate with each subgroup.
- Valuable communication: Clinicians should inform their patients about the provider’s digital solution for managing their health. It is possible to educate patients during their appointments. There is no need to invest extra time and effort.
- Security measures: Providers should guarantee their health IT vendors take all the necessary measures to ensure health wearables security.
These measures include ensuring transmission security, setting up digital signatures for connected devices, and activating encrypted communication between them with private keys. The other valuable step is penetration testing to protect the tool from malicious attacks and prevent sensitive data loss.
Though health wearables are not at the top of the list of life-saving inventions, they do have a say in the transition from reactive to preventive care—the ultimate goal of the healthcare industry in post-pandemic times.