Connected medical devices improve patient engagement, but not for long

Freddie Roberts

Automating health tracking using connected medical devices and apps can increase long-term patient engagement in health activities compared with manual tracking, according to a recent study.

This is the conclusion made by online pharmacy, Walgreens, and the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), following an examination of participants in Walgreens Balance Rewards for health choices program (BRhc). The study explored the impact of manual versus automatic data entries through a support device or via apps. It was published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Connected medical devices add incentives

BRhc is a self-monitoring program that allows members to track health activities and receive incentives for continued tracking and healthy behaviors. Commencing in 2014, the researchers supposedly examined activity tracking data — including exercise, weight, sleep, blood pressure, blood glucose data recorded, tobacco use and oxygen saturation — from more than 450,000 BRhc participants. According to reports in mobihealthnews, the results showed that 77 percent of users manually recorded their activities and participated in the program for an average of five weeks. Whereas, those who tracked their activity automatically, using BHrc supported medical devices or apps, stayed engaged for four times longer – an average of 20 weeks participation.

Understanding “real world connectivity”

Dr. Eric Topol, STSI director, said in a statement that by conducting the research with a larger pool of participants it allows STSI and Walgreens “to understand real world connectivity with mobile device health applications, along with behavior and outcome patterns.”
Harry Leider, the chief medical officer at Walgreens, suggested that patient empowerment and understanding of their own care and wellness could be be encouraged by providing connected health tools that enable data tracking of healthy behaviors, combined with incentives and trusted professional support. “We’re especially encouraged by the results of this study,” Leider said. “In the two years since it was initiated, we’ve seen a shift from the majority of members in the program tracking their activities manually, to most now tracking them automatically.”

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