A new report on digital health, Accenture’s 2016 Consumer Survey On Patient Engagement, provides a great deal of insight into the consumer health and wellness landscape. As such, employers and health plans would be wise to take note of some of the results. Below are some of our favorite statistics from the survey and what it means for organizational wellness programs.
Wearable And Mobile App Usage Doubled Since 2014
The number of U.S. consumers using wearables and mobile apps for managing their health has doubled from 16% in 2014 to 33% today. This is a dramatic increase and cannot be understated. When considering that only 24% of employees participate in employee wellness programs, 33% consumer usage should direct employers to the best way to proceed – via a rich consumer wellness strategy. A consumer wellness strategy puts the consumer wellness technologies that employees already use front and center. It also embraces a bring-you-own-device (BYOD) approach to wellness, which means employers get to save money by allowing employees to use the technologies they already have. Even if the wellness program doesn’t increase participation beyond the users already engaging with consumer wellness technologies, the average employer would see a significant increase in the success of their program.
Large Majorities of Patients and Doctors Believe Wearables Help With Engagement
The majority of both consumers (77%) and doctors (85%) said that using wearables helps a patient engage in his or her health. In addition, four in 10 consumers who use health apps said they have discussed or shared mobile app data with their doctor in the past year, which is another testament to their perceived importance. If employees believe in the tools that an employer provides, they are more likely to engage in the solution. This partly explains the struggle with biometric screenings. Employees constantly read about how screenings often do more harm than good, which results in employers having to pay large sums of money for low participation rates. In the case of biometric screenings, this may not be a bad thing.
Physician Recommendations Matter
Of the one in five consumers who were asked by a doctor to use wearables to track their health, such as fitness or vital signs, three-quarters (76%) followed their physician's recommendation. The most obvious question from a statistic like this is whether or not physicians will start suggesting appropriate digital health tools more frequently, and if not, how can an employer (or more likely a health plan) incent them to do so? This question is a complicated one for employers and health plans to address because it requires having more individuals visit a physician, which has cost and quality implications, as well as requires these organizations to get more involved with their employees’ healthcare, which has never been a good practice. As an alternative, we suggest providing cogent communications that utilizes quality research from physicians on the benefits of health tracking. It probably won’t have an impact on 3 out of 4 people, but it will certainly get more users engaging with these tools.
Not All Digital Health Tools Are Equal
Despite having a wide array of technologies to choose from, consumers most frequently used health apps for fitness (59% of respondents) and diet/nutrition (52%). Other categories fared well and will likely represent more of the future of digital health, but right now, fitness and nutrition dominate. Employers should think about the “low hanging fruit” of digital health when they implement wearables and mobile apps into the workplace. The good news is that these consumer technologies will serve as a great foundation for any wellness program, and there is still a great deal of innovation to be had in these categories. A key thing to note is that there are many similar fitness and nutrition apps on the market. It is important for employers to remember that part of their responsibility is to make sure that the list of apps they include in their program is curated to only include highly effective apps. Directing employees to apps that have not been vetted can be dangerous.