Patients stick with smartphone activity trackers longer than wearable devices

Six months after discharge, smartphone users were 32 percent more likely to continue sending health data to the research team than those using wearables.

Doctors who want to track their patients’ physical activity might have more luck doing it with smartphones than wearable fitness devices, according to a new Penn Medicine study. The data showed that patients who used smartphones were 32% more likely to send in their daily step counts six months after being discharged from the hospital than those who used a wearable fitness tracker. 

person outside wearing a fitness tracker and headphones looking at a smartphone

Since smartphones have become near-ubiquitous, these findings—published in JAMA Network Open—signaled to researchers that it is possible to track physical activity on a wider level, which could improve efforts to remotely monitor patient behaviors.

“Most people with smartphones take them everywhere they go. Since carrying the phone is already a built-in habit, it makes it much easier to use the device to track activity levels,” says the study’s lead author, Mitesh Patel, director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit and an assistant professor of medicine. “While wearables can track other metrics, every time patient takes them off, there’s a possibility that they may never put it back on again.”

Read more at Penn Medicine News.