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Occupational Medicine journal publishes review on wearables

22 April 2021
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Review points to benefits of wearables in helping people improve their health

A new review written by Vitality clinicians on the benefits of wearables has been published in the Occupational Medicine journal. The review assesses the wide range of current and future ways in which wearables could significantly improve the health of individuals and populations.

The article, which examines a number of pieces of research and studies into wearables, notes that the growth in sales of wearables was 71% higher in 2019 compared to the previous year*, reflecting the increased interest and importance of active lifestyles and the use of wearable devices as an intervention to improve health. 

The paper categorises the use and benefits of wearables into four key areas: 

1. Health Improvement 

Wearables can support health improvement by: 
Providing a reliable record of activity 
Guiding habit change
Helping people understand their health
Helping people manage their behaviours

2 and 3. Chronic disease management and risk management

There is increasing evidence of the benefits of wearables when integrated into disease management programmes, with technology already supporting patients to monitor chronic conditions such as diabetes. 

Through the tracking and monitoring of a broad range of biometrics and activities, there are also a wide range of opportunities for wearables to help manage several types of risk. Examples noted include identifying early signs of illness through the tracking of heart rate, the use of motion sensors to monitor employees’ activity levels, and the opportunity for wearables to support social distancing. The range of uses is also likely to expand as technology develops. 

4. Performance improvement
Wearables may help people work better if they are healthier, happier, or more aware of their health. This is becoming increasingly relevant to businesses who are considering the health of their workforces, and who wish to support their employees’ health in the future. Given the increase in people working from home during the pandemic, there is an opportunity for businesses to better understand their employees’ lifestyles and where to focus their interventions. 

The paper encourages occupational health leaders to recognise the material contributory roles wearables may play in occupational health strategies.

Speaking about the review, Dr Ali Hasan, Chief Medical & Healthcare Officer at VitalityHealth said: “Wearables have become very common in our day-to-day lives. Much of the research we reviewed indicates clear areas of benefit from these devices, in particular to help motivate people to improve and monitor their health. It’s also clear that investing in wearables as part of an organisation’s occupational health strategy is likely to be a low-risk approach which may offer many benefits, particularly as the shape of the workplace continues to evolve.”

James, from London, got an Apple Watch as part of the Vitality offering to support him in tracking his health and fitness levels. In the same year, he suddenly fainted, hit his head and, after going to the doctors and his local hospital, found out that he suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a potentially life-threatening heart condition. His awareness and value of his Apple Watch to monitor his heart’s rhythm and track trends in his heart beat over time then came into its own.

James said: “Since my diagnosis, having an Apple Watch has really given me peace of mind, as it allows me to monitor my condition on a daily basis. Last year my watch helped me to seek medical help when it alerted me to changes in my heart rate on a number of occasions. The watch has also encouraged me to get outside, get more active and track my steps every day.” 

A previous study from RAND Europe commissioned by Vitality’s parent company, Discovery, in 2018 found that the use of Apple Watches drove a dramatic and sustained 34% improvement in physical activity levels, compared to those without **. The results found that this applied to everyone no matter their health status, age or gender.   

The review was authored by: Ali Hasan, Chief Medical & Healthcare Officer, VitalityHealth; Keith Klintworth, Group COO and Managing Director, VitalityHealth; and Cother Hajat, Advisor, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Public Health Institute, United Arab Emirates University.


Notes to editors

* IDC Corporate USA. Worldwide Wearables Market to Top 300 Million Units in 2019 and Nearly 500 Million Units in 2023, Says IDC
**Incentives and physical activity study. RAND Europe 2018.