Wearable devices that collect data related to health and wellness seem to be a big hit, with FitBit going public at a very, very high valuation, UnderArmour buying wearables companies, and a lot of the Apple Watch hype being related to health apps. RBC Capital Markets conducted a survey of 1500 consumers to ascertain attitudes toward health wearables. (RBC Survey) According to the survey 21% of Americans now own some kind of wearable health or fitness device and the growth rate has been extremely rapid. About half of people who don’t own a wearable should they would consider purchasing one. As might be expected, younger, higher income people are the predominate buyers, which likely limits the market size. In bad news for Apple, the primary reason people don’t purchase a wearable is cost. In terms of brand awareness, 69% of consumers are aware of the Apple Watch, 47% of FitBit, 33% of Samsung Gear and 31% of Nike Fuel Band. These four also account of the largest actual market share, with FitBit owned by 39% of the respondents. For each of these top four brands, over 70% of consumers view the products as a good, with no definition of what “good” means.
Now we get to use, 37% of owners use their device several times a day and 28% say once a day. Many say they are using them for actual monitoring of health measures, like heart rate, blood pressure, sleep amount and quality, etc. Most people, 57% said they were using the wearable to improve their health, while only 28% said they used one to reduce health spending. People with a chronic illness expressed a high level of willingness to use wearable data to help manage their condition. 58% said they were concerned about the security of data collected on the wearable, but 85% said they would share the data with their doctor and 59% with their health plan. Interestingly, younger people had higher levels of data security concern. I am skeptical that it is a foregone conclusion that wearable use will grow indefinitely. I am even more skeptical that the data collected will prove to have any significant impact on health care spending or quality. That 5% of the population with the really high health costs generally isn’t using a wearable, unless it’s an oxygen tank. But everyone should have as much fun as they want with their shiny new toys.