Electronic activity monitors (also known as trackers or wearables) are quickly gaining in popularity with consumers for tracking physical activity, heart rate, sleep patterns, calorie consumption, and more. Companies such as Nike, Fitbit, Jawbone, and Garmin currently offer a range of wearables with varying features and price points; the Apple Watch, expected to launch in 2015, will include the HealthKit that collects data from the user’s health and fitness apps for centralized access to health information. It is estimated that between 10–15% of consumers in the U.S. own wearables, with 61% of those being activity trackers.1 Although nearly half of the wearable consumers are between the ages of 18–24, there are differences seen in motivations for purchasing and use of trackers based on age; adults ages 25–34 are primarily interested in wearables for fitness optimization, while those ages 55–64 are focused on using the devices for improving their overall health and longevity.2

While interest in wearables for health and fitness is growing among consumers, adherence remains a challenge to manufacturers. Approximately one-third of those who purchase wearables cease using them after six months, leaving behind the features that could empower patients to track certain parameters and provide motivation for health improvement. Another obstacle is the lack of clinical data assessing wearables on improving patient outcomes in chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and others. Matthew Diamond MD, PhD, Medical Director of Misfit Wearables and a Clinical Instructor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, recently spoke to MPR about the opportunities for integration of wearables into patient care for optimal treatment outcomes for a variety of conditions and diseases.

For Dr. Diamond, a unique aspect of wearables is that they can be useful for a wide variety of patients, from healthy individuals to those with chronic illnesses who are looking for support in incorporating lifestyle changes as part of a prescribed treatment plan. In particular, patients with metabolic syndrome could benefit from wearables as an intervention tool to prevent disease progression. “There are millions of Americans with metabolic syndrome (MetS); for these patients, physical activity and dietary changes are two of the most important things they can do for their health. For an individual in their 50s or 60s, they may be told for the first time that their cholesterol and blood pressure are elevated and that they are developing prediabetes. They’re likely to be recommended medicine for these conditions, but it can also be an opportunity for the doctor to have a conversation with them about activity goals and to provide an exercise prescription. I do see the importance of exercise as a vital sign for healthcare providers to evaluate their patients every time they see their patient,” states Dr. Diamond.