I have three kids under the age of 12. As a parent, I pay close attention to their well-being. I limit their screen-time and get them to bed at a reasonable hour (usually). I make sure they eat well-balanced meals and have access to healthy snacks. I also try to sign them up for sports teams and camps to make sure they stay active. Unlike my kids, no one is constantly monitoring the choices I make that could affect my health. I know I don’t get enough sleep. When I’m on the road, I tend to skip the gym more often than I’d like.
We have been writing extensively about our vision for health in the year 2040 when we expect always-on sensors, multi-omics profiling, and highly personalized health data will empower individuals to take steps to improve their health condition or prevent illness in the first place.
And speaking of taking steps…nearly 600 of my Deloitte colleagues recently completed a 36-week randomized clinical study that looked into the impact wearable devices can have on physical activity. Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that wearable activity trackers paired with an element of gamification are much more effective at boosting activity levels than wearable devices alone. Even 12 weeks after the study concluded, the participants who had a fitness tracker paired with competitive gamification were far more physically active than the control group that used a fitness tracker alone. The results of this study were published yesterday in the September 9 issue of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine publication.
Another recent article (this one in the journal Nature Medicine), backs up our thesis that patients will become more engaged in their health as they gain insight into the preclinical conditions that impact their well-being.1 In this study, participants who were at risk for developing diabetes were evaluated over a period of up to eight years. Tests included profiling of the genome and gut microbes, and participants used wearable devices to continuously monitor their glucose levels. Regular feedback related to their health prompted a majority of participants to alter their diets and to exercise more frequently. Participants said their wearable devices kept them accountable for exercising and made them more aware of the need for occasional walking breaks.
We are heartened by the results of these studies, which challenge the orthodoxies about human behavior. Twenty years from now, or maybe much sooner, a smart wearable device might continually track activity as well as blood-sugar levels, electrolytes, and hydration.