A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open, highlighted an unsettling trend among patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD), revealing that less than 20% of these individuals are incorporating wearable health technology into their routine care management. This unsettling underutilization has drawn attention to the escalating issue of health disparities in the US, hinting at an unbalanced landscape in health care access and efficacy.
As the leading cause of death in the United States, CVD ends a life every 33 seconds, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While wearable health technology has shown immense promise in facilitating CVD management, this study underscores the fact that a substantial gap remains in the adoption of these devices, potentially affecting patient outcomes.
This investigation by a group of dedicated researchers aimed to evaluate the sociodemographic influences on wearable device usage among patients diagnosed with, or at risk for, CVD. The study utilized data from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) and homed in on the population with established CVD or those at risk. The total adult population in the United States is around 247.3 million. Of this, an estimated 20.3 million individuals are diagnosed with CVD, and a staggering 134.9 million are categorized as at risk. The research involved a comprehensive survey of a representative sample of 9,303 participants, with an average age of 48.8. Out of these, 933 had been diagnosed with CVD and 5,185 were identified as being at risk.
The research findings unveiled a low level of wearable health technology usage, even among those who could potentially benefit from such devices. The study found that a mere 17.7% of U.S. adults with CVD and 25.5% of those at risk of developing the disease were utilizing these devices, in stark contrast to the national wearables adoption rate of 29%.The team of researchers identified several factors contributing to the less frequent use of wearable health technology among at-risk populations, including older age, lower educational attainment, and lower income. Interestingly, they also discovered that heart disease patients who did use wearables were less likely to utilize them daily, compared to those at risk or to the overall population. These findings bring to light the urgent need for strategies promoting the equitable adoption of wearables, ensuring that the devices can truly serve their intended purpose of improving health outcomes and preventing the exacerbation of existing healthcare disparities.
There are several limitations to the study that must be considered. The data used was self-reported, introducing a possible margin of error due to inaccuracies or misrepresentation. Certain specifics, like the presence of conditions like atrial fibrillation that could particularly benefit from wearable health tech, were not accounted for. The type of wearable technology used, which could potentially influence adoption and usage rates, was also not specified. Additionally, the survey’s response rate was about one-third, which could introduce nonresponse bias. Finally, the study did not consider possible changes in wearable tech usage trends following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite these potential limitations, the study’s authors emphasized a key message in their conclusion. They noted that fewer than 1 in 4 individuals with or at risk for CVD are using wearable devices, with only half of these users engaging with the devices consistently. They cautioned that, should wearable devices prove to be effective tools for improving cardiovascular health, current usage patterns could exacerbate health disparities without proper adoption strategies.
These findings, echoing past research, reveal stark disparities in wearable tech usage. They amplify the call for comprehensive interventions to ensure wide, equitable adoption of these devices, given their substantial potential in managing and preventing cardiovascular disease. This calls for an urgent focus on improving accessibility, especially among vulnerable populations, to fully leverage wearable technology’s capabilities in enhancing health outcomes and combating cardiovascular disease.