We’re just catching up with an interesting article about wearables in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Doctors Mitesh S. Patel, David A. Asch, and Kevin G. Volpp, all of the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, suggest that “concepts from behavioral economics” might be key to getting people to continue involvement with their wearable tech for longer than the current abandonment rate.
What, you ask, is “behavioral economics?” People like winning stuff, and they hate losing out. It’s true even for extremely-low-likelihood events, which explains the success of state-run lotteries. People are more engaged, it turns out, by variable rewards that come unpredictably than by regular earned rewards. (In other words, people love nice surprises.) Rather than rewarding people with an icon for taking 1 million steps, an occasional random $5 might work — but you have to be updating your status on the particular day to qualify. And, of course, the prize — its existence and winners — could be publicized over social media.
The doctors’ other thoughts about wearables are not surprising:
- The people who could most benefit from wearables — those in poor health, who are often poor and elderly — are the least likely to be able to afford them or be willing to do the routine maintenance (i.e. charging) required of them. The doctors suggest that alternate funding methods, such as health insurers, might be worthwhile.
- Accuracy of wearables is not certain. Regular readers will not be surprised about that.
- Wearables are complex. Data upload needs to be simplified, and results must be reported back users in an action-oriented format.