The latest wearable tracking devices, available as bracelets, watches and even necklaces from high-end designers, to effectively promote health behavior change, alone cannot change behavior and improve health for those that need it most, according to a research conducted by the Perelman School of Medicine, the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation and the LDI Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Researchers points out that even though several large technology companies are entering this expanding market, there may be a disconnect between the assumed benefits and actual outcomes. Authors Mitesh S. Patel and Kevin G. Volpp wrote, "The notion is that by recording and reporting information about behaviors such as physical activity or sleep patterns, these devices can educate and motivate individuals toward better habits and better health. The gap between recording information and changing behavior is substantial, however, and while these devices are increasing in popularity, little evidence suggests that they are bridging the gap." Instead, the authors recommended that building new habits may be best facilitated by presenting frequent feedback and by using a trigger that captures the individual's attention at those moments when he or she is most likely to take action.
The researchers believe that there are four challenges that need to be addressed for wearable devices-
1. A person must be motivated enough to want the device and be able to afford it.
2. Once the device is acquired, a person must remember to wear it and occasionally recharge it.
3. The device must be able to accurately track its targeted behavior.
4. The information must be presented back to the user (using a feedback loop) in a way that can be understood, that motivates action, and that sustains the motivation towards improved health.
The authors concluded that it is the engagement strategies, like the combinations of individual encouragement, social competition and collaboration, and effective feedback loops, which connect with human behavior.
The study appears online in JAMA.