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New research: Physicians key to wearables taking off

What’s the key to wearables truly taking off? According to a report by MedPanel, it’s physicians who have the power.

“As long as tech companies view wearables and apps as consumer-driven markets, these products will remain a fad,” Jason LaBonte, president of healthcare market research firm MedPanel, said in a press release. “But if they engage physicians to recommend these products, wearables and apps will be viewed as part of healthcare and become permanent fixtures.”

So how do physicians feel about wearables and health apps? And how often do they speak with their patients about them?

According to the report, which was based on a survey of 415 U.S. physicians, physicians discuss wearables and/or health apps with 15% of their patients on average. However, “pharmacists are two times more likely to discuss apps than wearables with patients, and physicians at accountable care organizations (ACOs) are more than twice as likely to discuss wearables or apps compared to physicians not part of an ACO,” the press release stated.

Despite this, the report found that this is not enough compared to the number of patients who would actually benefit from this technology: Physicians told MedPanel that 38% of patients not using wearables and 42% of patients not using health apps could benefit from doing so.

MedPanel also found that physicians, on average, are only mildly satisfied with the currently available products. In fact, the report found that the Microsoft Band scored the highest — beating out the Apple Watch and Fitbit — of all wearables for satisfaction based on two attributes that physicians said are the most important: ease of use and the clinical utility of data the device generates. However, the report did find that the Apple Watch is the brand that most physicians are aware of and Fitbit is the brand they are most familiar with.

Physicians said that one of the top concerns, and an area in which wearables and health apps need to improve, is when it comes to integrating mobile health data directly into EHR systems.