Automated health tracking boosts patient engagement, study shows

January 7, 2017

Connected devices and apps eliminating the need for manual tracking drive better long-term engagement in healthy activities, a study from Walgreens and Scripps Translational Science, shows.

Automated health tracking can significantly improve long-term health engagement, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The collaborative study, from Walgreens Boots Alliance and Scripps Translational Science Institute, provides insights into the utilization patterns of individuals participating in an incentivized, web-based self-monitoring program, according to study co-author Greg Orr, vice president, digital health at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

Research professionals from Walgreens and Scripps collaborated to examine activity tracking data-including exercise, weight, sleep, blood pressure, blood glucose data recorded, tobacco use and oxygen saturation-from more than 450,000 members of Walgreens Balance Rewards for healthy choices (BRhc) program, an incentivized, web-based self-monitoring program. After identifying users with sufficient follow-up data, the study explored trends in participation over time. The results demonstrated that 77% of users manually recorded their activities and participated in the program for an average of five weeks. However, users who entered activities automatically using the BRhc supported devices or apps remained engaged four times longer and averaged 20 weeks of participation.

Participation trends

“With the rise of consumerism in healthcare and the increased usage of smartphones and apps, it is the absolute perfect time for the industry to start rethinking our approach to health interventions,” Orr says. “These trends intersect with the need for payers to continue to seek better ways to engage their members and drive healthy behaviors. This study demonstrates the value of leveraging automated tracking through apps and wearable devices as part of an incentivized health engagement solution.”

Ease of use is key

There is positive value in incentive-based programs to drive healthier decisions, particularly when the program is simple and convenient for members, according to Orr. 

“Executives should think broadly about their programs and look to existing successful programs to model or partner with,” he says. “Walgreens is hyper-focused on customer experience in everything we do. This study has further demonstrated that if you make something easy-such as automatically tracking health engagement instead of requiring manual entry-people are more likely to do it consistently. Walgreens is very interested in partnering with other entities in the healthcare continuum and leveraging this approach to better serve our shared customers.”  

Tracey Walker is content manager for Managed Healthcare Executive.