Survey: China leads the world in connected health device adoption

By Jonah Comstock
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Globally and in the US, use of connected health devices is still low and hasn’t changed since last year, according to extensive survey data from Ipsos, shared today at the Connected Health Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

“What we lack is objective data,” Reena Sangar, head of digital and connected health at Ipsos, told conference attendees. “The data [that’s out there now] is very US-centric, lots of different stats that are difficult to decipher. So we felt there was a real gap here. One of the really important things to really increase adoption is to understand the profiles of individuals using connected health.”

Ipsos interviewed a total of 18,180 individuals representing a total of 23 countries. They found that, worldwide 12 percent of people said they currently used a connected health device (including fitness trackers) and another 12 percent said they had formerly used one. But this wasn’t at all the same across all countries. 

People in China were the most likely to use a connected health device, with 28 percent responding that they did, followed by India with 26 percent and the United States with 21 percent. Turkey and Indonesia rounded out the top five. The US had a comparatively low dropout rate, with only 10 percent saying they formerly used a device.

On the other hand, Polish respondents were the least likely to use a connected health device, at just 3 percent, followed by Peru at 4 percent, Russia and Brazil at 6 percent, and Japan and France at 7 percent.

Ipsos conducted a similar survey last year in just a few countries, and saw adoption staying steady in most, with only Japan showing a slight increase.

Not all countries’ residents used devices for the same reasons. China, India, and the US all said they were mostly interested in monitoring and improving exercise, whereas Turkish responders said they were interested in their own health data and Indonesians wanted a device to store health data.

In the countries with low adoption, however, the top two barriers were all the same: cost and lack of knowledge about what wearables can do.

“Cost is there as a barrier, often is, but I think the most important thing in this slide is ‘I don’t know enough about them’,” Sangar said. “I wouldn’t take that as awareness. What it means is ‘I don’t know enough about what it would do for me’. And that’s the piece that’s missing.”

Outside of the country breakdown, Ipsos found somewhat predictable results about who uses wearables: 25 to 34 year-olds are most likely and groups get less likely as they older. Educated and working class people are more likely than uneducated and low income folks.

Most interestingly, they asked respondents whether certain stakeholders, namely their doctors and insurance companies, could persuade them to start using a tracking device. Globally, 85 percent said they would use a device if their doctor recommended it and 68 percent would use a device if their insurance company recommended it. Here in the US those numbers were quite a bit lower, at 68 and 49 percent, respectively.

“The role of the health care professional and health insurers will need to be better defined as we plan the new human-centered design of healthcare,” Sangar said. “Because without them it’s not going to happen. We have to empower the healthcare professional because they are the heart of the health service.”