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Incentives don't push patients to digital health tools, self-motivation does

Most people can’t be incentivized to use digital health tools by an outside force. The ultimate motivator is a person’s concern for their own wellbeing and understanding how digital health tools can help them reach their goals.

This was made clear by the results of a HealthMine, Inc. survey in which more than half (52%) of the 500 individuals surveyed said they are participants in a wellness program and two-thirds of that group said that they are offered incentives for using digital health tools. When asked to state why they were using such services, only 10% gave incentives as their reason, while 42% said knowing the numerical value of their health-related data was their main motivation. Improving their health and knowing that someone was keeping tabs on their information were two other reasons that accrued a higher percentage of responses than did incentives.

In the HealthMine survey report, Bryce Williams, CEO and president of HealthMine, theorized that what makes patients take ownership of their data and overall health is personalization. “For these tools to be effective, they must be tailored to individual needs and connect to the individual’s bigger picture of health data,” Williams said.

The survey results also highlighted that there’s a largely unfulfilled opportunity when it comes to health apps that help treat patients with long-term illnesses. Nearly 60% of respondents stated they are living with a chronic health condition. Yet, when asked for the specific health apps and tools they used, only 7% of people said they use them for disease management. Half of the respondents said they measure their steps or exercises that way. The second and third most frequently used apps were for food tracking and weight loss, coming in at 46% and 39%, respectively. Williams summarized these findings and said, “Digital health tools have exploded in growth — but more so in the lifestyle management category than in clinical/disease management.”

A few other studies, analyzed in a recent blog post by Kristen Lee, back the concept that individual patients are more likely to use digital health tools for tracking their physical activity than they are to involve them in more critical care situations.