The Data Revealed: Should Consumers Be Using Health Tracking Tools With a Professional?

Do you remember the earliest Fitbits?

Back in 2010 my family equipped itself with the old school Fitbit One for a basic steps challenge, where all accountability, competition, and encouragement were refreshingly outside the app universe.

Each day I’d receive a message from one of my parents bragging about the odd thousand or so steps they had been able to hit by lunch time, leaving me no choice but to desperately pace around the office just to keep up.

 
Great question!

Great question!

 

Unfortunately, those devices followed what I believe to be the true fate of all Fitbit Ones: death by washing machine.

Anyone who’s worn one knows what I’m talking about.

What’s amazing is that, THIS was one of the earliest generations of the new mobile health craze, and the best part was that it was sticky. It utilized a perfect balance of interaction with both my family and device without requiring me to really DO anything.

The idea of passive tracking really took off in 2013 with the launch of the MOVES app, which used your phone’s hardware to passively track your activity each day, eventually setting the stage for a multitude of “me too” apps to be launched providing a similar value.

Feeling nostalgic? Don’t worry, I’ve gone ahead and included the original PandoDaily post from 2013 that served to be the catalyst for Nudge being what it is today.

 
Hamish McKenzie's Post from January 24, 2013.

Hamish McKenzie's Post from January 24, 2013.

 

Since that time, mobile health has gone through multiple lifecycle stages ranging from passive step trackers to smartwatches, but it now finds itself at a bit of a crossroad.

Forge ahead as a traditional consumer product? Integrate within typical wellness channels? Equip itself with the FDA badge and become a device for healthcare arenas?

There’s no denying that mobile health is in the process of needing to redefine itself, and Sean Greeley, the CEO of Net Profit Explosion belives that "the greatest gap in the space right now is the fact that data alone can’t affect change. Consumers are looking for an expert voice to help them understand the data, create a plan, and get support in accomplishing their goals faster (and with more ease). These technological advances will forever change the way the health and fitness professionals create value and serve their clients."

He may have a point.

 

A Few False Starts

Throughout most of the early years, health tracking tools received the most criticism for having a demographics problem. i.e the people purchasing these devices weren’t the ones really needing them.

For instance, the Atlantic cited an article from within the Journal of the American Medical Association which identified that roughly half of mobile health users were under the age of 35 with a third earning more than $100,000 per year.

Studies suggest that socioeconomic factors have a large part to play with respect to obesity rates and other instances of lifestyle related conditions, so it’s easy to see why these findings were disappointing.

So does this mean that health tracking apps and devices may only be helping healthy, self-motivated people live a bit healthier?

It’s certainly not a BAD thing to help prevent low-risk consumers from sliding down into the high-risk category, but not this isn’t impact most device makers were striving for.

On top of that, manufacturers have constantly battled staggering attrition numbers, which Endeavor Partners found to be almost 1/3 of all total devices within 6 months.

At this point we have to take a step back and pose a simple question.

Has mobile health been targeting the wrong population from the beginning?

 

Potential Ahead

Even with a series of hiccups in its growth there still remains a sense of optimism within the industry that health tracking tools have the potential to fill a substantial void.

In fact, in early 2016, ORC Research and The Society for Participatory Research announced that findings in a joint survey suggested that 88% of consumers generally believed that monitoring and sharing health information with their practitioners would lead to healthier outcomes.

Add that to the fact that 81% of consumers surveyed mentioned being likely to use health tracking apps when recommended by a professional.

There is no denying that there is pent up demand from consumers for additional context around their lifestyle data. We live in a data-hungry society looking to optimize everything around use, and after introducing consumers with a way in which they can quantify their actions, it’s only natural to try to optimize one’s lifestyle.

Basic step trackers lead to apps to compare steps across friends, and now we’ve even started seeing apps providing a thin facade of coaching with the hopes of keeping users around for the long term.

Here’s the thing. Longevity within the mobile health market greatly depends on how the technology integrates within client and patient models, and we’ve seen firsthand that by incorporating a health or wellness professional into the equation GREATLY influences long term outcomes.

 

Mobile Health’s Golden Equation

Practitioner involvement is the only way mobile health wins the long game.

It brings additional value to everyone throughout the chain: increase relevance to consumers and manufacturers, and practitioners are hungry to have better data at their disposal.

At the moment most practitioners are forced to use outdated techniques and are actively trying to bring consumer tracking technologies into their business.

Carmen Hunter, a leading health coach and founder of Carmen Hunter Health called mobile health “a vital part of accountability and success between coach and client for many reasons.  It gives a sense of security to the client that the coach is only seconds away when they need support and the coach can minimize time spent on the phone and chained to the desk but accessing records and communication by mobile device.”

The numbers don’t lie. We looked at usage from thousands of users on the Nudge system to compare how practitioner lead users differed from traditional consumers over time with respect to engagement, lifestyle improvements, and outcomes and the numbers are staggering.

We found that...

If you are interested in reading about more of the findings you can see the infographic and accompanying deck through the link below.


Pros Guide to the Mobile Health Tracking Movement:
What the data says about the power of using mobile health tracking apps and devices with clients


 

The driver to all of this is what I consider the golden equation for mobile health which makes integration within client and patient management models an absolute no-brainer.

Let's dive into the equation...

Mobile health usage + practitioner involvement = Measured Return + Proof of Efficacy

Where...

  • Mobile Health Usage - the basic level of engagement anticipated from a consumer who is actively participating in lifestyle tracking.
  • Practitioner Involvement - the additional accountability and motivation a practitioner can deliver to the relationship, and as a result, the tracking experience.
  • Measured Return - the resulting, usable data illustrating success with clients - i.e. "Mr. Smith, since you've increased your cardio over the past month, you've descreased your fat mass by X%!"
  • Proof of Efficacy - the abilty to use aggregate client data for validation of your model and programs - i.e. "My clients lost X lbs. on average over 3 months."

The numbers we've uncovered highlight the demand from professionals in the space as well as the potential results, but it's important to really understand the "WHY" behind the numbers and the equation.

First off, anyone who’s ever worked with clients knows that it’s CRITICAL to be able to properly demonstrate some type of ROI to keep a person engaged and more importantly keep them as a paying customer.

For instance, take this screen shot I took from the Nudge Coach module on a fictitious client...

 
What happened in February?

What happened in February?

 

Being able to illustrate key information over time can help identify key lifestyle factors that may have been helping or hurting a client's progress. For instance, this client seemed to gain weight in February - that's an insight you could use to dig deeper in order to uncover any underlying themes wrecking a person's progress.

Health tracking tools allow professionals to have REAL DATA to illustrate changes in behavior, trends, milestones, and outcomes, so we’ve seen countless pros making the leap to empower their business with mobile health.

Josh Trent, digital health coach and host of the WellnessForce Podcast, explained that "mobile health has allowed our clients to get better results through increased accountability like never before… The impact of a mobile health coaching dashboard has taken what was once impossible to a high performance reality." 

Another reason why this is such an obvious pairing is that the resulting data can be monumental for proving efficacy of any type of wellness programs. Consider this, imagine being able to have all the data available from your client programs allowing you to share high level stats on your site to prospective clients.

You think it will make a difference? You bet!

Fitness personality, Anna Renderer, explains that "mobile health takes fitness coaching to a whole new level. Tracking my clients daily behaviors and activity has not only enhanced accountability, it has enhanced my ability to guide them towards their goals more effectively! In this age of technology advances, our ability to track activity, behaviors and progress allows fitness professionals new cutting edge advantages towards helping clients reach greater results."  

 

 
Being able to consistently monitor activity allows you to be proactive and address issues if they arise. In this case, the client's cardio has steadily been decreasing, signalling it may be time for a bit of a pep talk.

Being able to consistently monitor activity allows you to be proactive and address issues if they arise. In this case, the client's cardio has steadily been decreasing, signalling it may be time for a bit of a pep talk.

 

Not to mention, if you are (and I hope you are) helping clients achieve remarkable outcomes or changes in lifestyle, you can charge a premium for your services.

Put yourself in a prospect shoes. I’d LOVE to be able to see what kind of anticipated returns I can expect from working with someone. Average weight loss… potential strength gains… all of it can be massive for your business, so don’t sell yourself short by turning your back to mobile health. 

A data driven wellness culture? Sign me up anyday!