New report demonstrates value of automated health tracking

A new research study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, suggests consumers tracking their health data are more likely to stick with a program if their data is continuously updated online from their wearable device.

Walgreens, one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, teamed up with Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), to look at the way connected devices and apps can drive better long-term engagement in healthy activities. Researchers examined activity tracking data – such as exercise, weight, sleep, blood pressure, and blood glucose – from more than 450,000 BRhc members in 2014, when most were still tracking manually.

The results showed that 77% of users manually recorded their activities and participated in the program for an average of five weeks. However, the 23% with activity trackers participated about four times longer and averaged 20 weeks of participation. And previous research has shown that people participating in the program with wearables tend to lose more weight. Fitbits were the most commonly used devices, accounting for around 60% of those using a wearable.

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Consumers logged exercise the most, as 85% of participants recorded an exercise activity, followed by weigh-ins (41%), sleep (33%), blood pressure (11%) and blood glucose (6%). Those who logged sleep participated in the program the longest, an average of ten weeks. Tracking exercise was the next longest at eight weeks.

STSI director Eric Topol, MD, said in a statement that conducting research in a large cohort enables STSI and Walgreens “to understand real world connectivity with mobile device health applications, along with behavior and outcome patterns.”

Harry Leider, M.D., chief medical officer, Walgreens added that digital technology that enables easy data tracking of healthy behaviors, combined with incentives, and trusted professional support, provide additional motivation for their customers to more easily manage their health.

“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.

The wearables space is still new and evolving, so it has been difficult to research the impact of fitness trackers and health apps, with lots of accuracy issues and conflicting reports. The conclusion we can take away from this study is – the more data is collected automatically or passively, the better.

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