Patients more likely to share health data via smartphones than wearables: Penn Medicine study

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In the months after being discharged from the hospital, patients assigned to send health data to researchers using a smartphone app were more likely to do so than those tasked with transmitting data through a wearable device, a new study from Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine found.

Of a group of 500 patients admitted to two local hospitals, half were tasked with sending activity tracking data to researchers after discharge via an app on their phones, while the other half were asked to use a wearable device to do so, according to a news release. If patients failed to synchronize their data for four straight days, they were sent email, text message or voice message reminders.

At one month, three months and six months post-discharge, the smartphone users maintained higher participation in the program than their wearable-using counterparts. After six months, for example, 61 percent of the smartphone group members were still actively transmitting their health data, but only 47 percent of the wearable group's members were, representing a 32 percent relative difference.

"Most people with smartphones take them everywhere they go. Since carrying the phone is already a built-in habit, it makes it much easier to use the device to track activity levels," lead author Mitesh Patel, MD, director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit and an assistant professor of medicine, said in the release. "While wearables can track other metrics, every time patient takes them off, there's a possibility that they may never put it back on again."

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