Survey: 9 percent know what a health wearable is

By Aditi Pai
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MEF surveyAs a GfK survey found earlier this year, just 6 percent of UK and US consumers currently own a wearable device, but according to mobile industry association MEF's recent survey of 15,000 consumers in 15 countries across 5 continents, about half of consumers know they exist.

"It's fair to assume most of the above users are wearing some kind of health-tracking wristband such as Fitbit," MEF researchers wrote. "But, to repeat, these devices are hardly mainstream. A study by Parks Associates reported that the number of wearables sold will be 22 million this year. A decent number, but a pinprick compared to the billion smartphones shipped in 2013."

The researchers also pointed out that because this survey was conducted before Apple announced its smartphone, the Apple Watch, the awareness of wearables among mainstream consumers has likely increased.

Half of the respondents were aware of what a wearable device was. Within this group, 17 percent are aware of wearables in a health context, in which users would monitor heartbeat and blood pressure, while 16 percent are aware of wearables in a lifestyle context, which is where MEF includes activity tracking. That means about 8.5 percent of the consumers surveyed knew what a health wearable was before the Apple Watch was announced.

When it comes to app use, 31 percent of consumers surveyed said they use an app to improve their fitness, 21 percent use an app to manage their weight, and 15 percent use an app to manage an illness or medical condition. 

Forty four percent of consumers have seen a physician use an app during a treatment or diagnosis. Specifically, 15 percent have seen a physician using the app during treatment, 14 percent said they saw a physician using it during a diagnosis, and another 14 percent said they saw the physician using it during both.

When MEF broke this down by country, 37 percent of US-based consumers saw a medical professional using a mobile device and 31 percent of UK-based consumers saw a medical professional using one. The United Arab Emirates had the most consumers that saw a medical professional using a mobile device -- 62 percent.