Aetna's iTriage user survey finds minority use Apple Health, Google Fit

By Jonah Comstock

Infographic_Consumer Use of Healthcare Wearables_GeneralAdoption (3)Aetna business unit iTriage has released data from a survey of 3,300 of its users -- a sample of individuals who, as iTriage users, have already adopted mobile health tools -- and found that only 48 percent of their iOS users use Apple Health. What's more, 27 percent have never heard of it. Google Fit fairs even worse, with only 40 percent of the iTriage Android users surveyed using it and 27 percent unaware of the technology. Among all the survey respondents, 21 percent were Apple Health users and 13 percent used Google Fit.

iTriage mainly asked users about whether they track their health with wearable devices. They found that 19 percent do track with a wearable. Half of those who don't would be interested in using a wearable, but aren't currently. A third of respondents had no interest, and 17 percent didn't respond to the question.

Interestingly, iTriage found that both doctors and health insurers had a role to play in increasing that adoption: 76 percent would use wearable health technology if their doctor recommended it, and 68 percent would use if their insurance recommended or provided it.

"We wanted to gain a snapshot of how many people were using wearable health and fitness technologies from the big players before the launch of Apple Watch," Kevin Riddleberger, iTriage senior director of clinical solutions, told MobiHealthNews in an email. "For example, we were surprised to see the relatively low adoption and awareness figures among iOS and Android users of Apple Health and Google Fit, respectively. All that being said, what stood out to us most is the indication that doctors and health insurance plans are the key to incentivizing people to use wearable health tech -- for improved care and reduced premiums. Will we see subsidies granted for the big players to make a bigger splash in the health and fitness space to get their products in the hands of the right people? We will soon find out." 

For those who don't use wearables, 38 percent said using a device was cost-prohibitive. Three quarters of those who were concerned about cost said they would use a wearable if cost were no object. For 20 percent of non-users, the objection was that wearables and trackers are simply too complicated.

Seventy-one percent of those who do use wearables reported using them every day, and 44 percent said wearables made them feel more in control of their health. iTriage also asked users about willingness to share data: 76 percent would share data with doctors to help treatments, and 70 percent would share data with insurance companies for reduced premiums.

"Wearables offer huge potential for downstream cost savings for people managing chronic diseases and conditions -- and of course for people who can avoid them altogether by catching and managing risk factors before they develop into a problem," Riddleberger said. "If the people we surveyed who indicated willingness to share their data with their doctors and insurance plans take the opportunity to do so, the system will likely realize that savings in the near term if all parties -- patient, provider and payer -- are aligned and committed to the initiative. As the data indicates, it's critical for us in the industry to recognize the impact doctors and insurance plans can have on more widespread use of consumer wearable healthcare technology."

The survey found that 68 percent track physical fitness, 63 percent track weight loss, 39 percent track diet or food, and 35 percent track sleep patterns. Thirty percent track vital signs and 20 percent track medications. Women and people 24 and younger are both groups more likely to use devices to manage weight loss, whereas men are more likely to manage a chronic disease with wearables.

As for what wearable they use specifically, 32 percent used a Fitbit device, 12 percent used a Garmin device, 12 percent used a Nike FuelBand, 9 percent used a Withings device, 7 percent used a Misfit device, 6 percent used a Jawbone device, and 17 percent used another device. Note that this data was collected prior to the commercial launch of the Apple Watch.