Connected health tools boost long-term patient engagement, study finds

Scripps and Walgreens joined forces to conduct the research. Scripps director Eric Topol said it enables them to better understand how mobile devices and apps can help improve behavior and outcomes. 
By Jack McCarthy
01:27 PM
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Connected health Eric Topol

New research shows that automated health tracking using connected devices and apps can improve long-term engagement in health activities, compared with manual tracking.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, examined utilization patterns of participants in Walgreens Balance Rewards for healthy choices (BRhc), a self-monitoring program that allows members to track health activities and receive incentives for continued tracking and healthy behaviors.  

The result of a collaboration between Walgreens and the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), the study explored the impact of manual versus automatic data entries through a supported device or via apps.

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The researchers examined activity tracking data — including exercise, weight, sleep, blood pressure, blood glucose data recorded, tobacco use and oxygen saturation — from more than 450,000 BRhc members in 2014.

The results showed that 77 percent of users manually recorded their activities and participated in the program for an average of five weeks. Users who entered activities automatically using the BRhc supported devices or apps, however, remained engaged four times longer and averaged 20 weeks of participation.

STSI director Eric Topol, MD, said in a statement that conducting research in a large cohort enables STSI and Walgreens "to understand real world connectivity with mobile device health applications, along with behavior and outcome patterns." 

Walgreens chief medical officer Harry Leider, MD, added that connected health tools that enable data tracking of healthy behaviors, combined with incentives and trusted professional support, can help consumers become more engaged in their own care health and wellness.

“We’re especially encouraged by the results of this study,” Leider said. “In the two years since it was initiated, we’ve seen a shift from the majority of members in the program tracking their activities manually, to most now tracking them automatically.” 

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