Does Wearable Technology Have a Place in the EHR Market?

Wearable technology represents one of those “what if” moments in health care and EHR technology. If you spend any amount of time scanning health care technology news, you will encounter an article containing a headline that begins with one of the following phrases ”Wearable technology may be able to….” Alternatively, “Wearable technology can make….”.

Spend enough time reading tech news and you can just about convince yourself that someday we will all have wearable tech strapped to our person (or even more unnerving, implanted in us) for some type of diagnostic, preventative health or treatment. Sounds great considering wearables were a boutique item for power walkers and cross-fitters just a few years ago.

Forward-Thinking Health Care

The tech industry and forward-thinking elements of the health care and EHR market hinge high expectations on wearable technology’s potential. It has the ability to give providers real time and 360-degree data on a massive amount of useful health metrics after all.

Not a pipe dream, wearable technology is integral in the model, high-tech, data-driven version of EHR. This version of EHR can reduce risk and cut costs by engaging in meaningful population health management.

For patients whose condition currently requires constant monitoring, or patients who with monitoring can be prescribed an intervention to head off future disease, insights from wearables should be part of the ideal future of EHR technology. Not a pipe dream, wearable technology is integral in the model, high-tech, data-driven version of EHR. This version of EHR can reduce risk and cut costs by engaging in meaningful population health management. However, the question remains when will the promise of wearables be realized in EHR? On a scale of mass adoption, it will not likely be the short-term, rather it will probably remain a niche product to be used by tech-savvy providers.

Points of Resistance

Mass adoption in health care is still quite a distance away if even possible. So what are the reasons why wearables may not reach their potential in our industry?

The first reason stems from the nature of the technology itself. Wearables as a technology category have suffered from problems with user buy-in (EHR has its own problems there). A white paper published by Endeavour Partners estimates that even though 1 in 10 Americans owns a fitness tracker, nearly 50 percent of users abandon them within six months. According to this report, “In the midst of this frenzy of anticipation, the dirty secret of wearables remains: most of these devices fail to drive long-term sustained engagement for a majority of users.” Of course, there are differences between a consumer purchasing a wearable and one being used in the context of EHR, medical diagnosis or treatment. It is likely that wearable users in the medical context will be more likely to remain committed to their device if it is under doctor’s orders.

Evidence from a study conducted iTriage asked U.S. adults to describe their willingness to use a wearable for health care purposes. “76 percent report they would be more likely to use a tracking device if a doctor recommends it, while 68 percent of consumers said they would be more likely to use one if their health insurance company recommends it.”

Based on the findings outlined above, wearable technology as a supplement to EHR data and processes represents the telltale signs of a technology that is poised for growth. It may just be able to position itself as a meaningful and sustainable health care tool after all.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green