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Connected Health Device Ownership on the Rise

March 03, 2016

Exciting news from Parks Associates- households with broadband Internet access are increasingly getting into connected health devices. From just 2013 to 2015, the numbers saw a fairly hefty spike, going from 24 percent of households to 33 percent, with an increasingly dense variety of devices coming into use.

The devices ran the gamut, ranging from fitness trackers like the Fitbit to weight scales with network access and even connected treadmills. Fitbit's growth in 2015 has been astonishing, according to Parks Associates director of health and mobile product research Harry Wang, and reports suggest that AT&T has recently set up partnerships with a variety of healthcare and wearable device firms.

Interesting, age isn't the biggest indicator of connected health device ownership. Neither the youngest nor the oldest top the scales here, as the leading demographic is users 24 – 34, who own a connected health device in 42 percent of cases. Younger users, age 18 – 24, only had one in 37 percent of cases while 65 and older users had one in 31 percent of cases. It proves there's fairly wide market penetration among all age groups, but perhaps the most unexpected age group is the widest user.

The most popular kind of device was connected exercise equipment, followed closely by digital pedometers and fitness trackers. Fitness trackers and digital pedometers saw the biggest growth, however, going from five percent to 10 percent over the 2013 – 2015 period.

Wang offered a general explanation, saying “Personal experience, attitudes towards preventive care, emotional attachment to care services, and perceived usefulness of support tools all help define what clicks with consumers. Providers need to keep this in mind as they focus on increased engagement.”

That may explain why the 24 – 34 market was the biggest draw for connected healthcare devices. As we begin slipping out of youth in general, it becomes harder to manage things like weight and physical appearance, so we may be turning a little harder toward fitness. That's strictly supposition, of course, but it does fit the circumstances. There are a lot of potential explanations; while it would be easy to think that the older crowd would be more into fitness options in a bid to prolong life and potentially reduce costly and painful medical care, it's also worth noting that the 65 and older crowd isn't commonly tech-savvy. There are plenty of exceptions here, of course, as demonstrated by the 31 percent of respondents that have such devices, but it may be a cause of overall lag.

There's a lot to consider when it comes to connected health devices and potential users, and keeping all this in mind will be a huge help for those who design such systems. Each market would seem to have its own level of appeal, and keeping that in mind can be the difference between a successful product launch and another one that didn't get off the ground.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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