The Key to Successful Health Wearables and Apps

Yesterday I took part in the Dell #DoMoreHIT Healthcare Think Tank event. This was my 4th year participating in the event which always provides a rich discussion of important health IT topics.

This year, one of the topic areas was around wearables and how wearables are part of healthcare. We had a great discussion including insights from Stacey Burr, Digital Sports Managing Director at Adidas, which I found very helpful in my understanding of how a brand like Adidas is approaching wearables.

As the discussion progressed, I made the comment that I’ve come to realize that for a wearable or health app to be extremely successful it’s going to require one of two things: Fun or Invisible.

I want to be careful on the fun angle. I’m not talking about an app that applies gamification. Sure, gamification might be part of it, but people want to have fun. If a wearable or health app can’t make something fun, then more people are going to use it. In our current society we’re spoiled by so much stimulus and so we’re always interested in new ways to have fun. If you can incorporate some health or wellness into that, then we’ll like it even more. However, we’ll keep doing it because it’s fun, not because of the health and wellness benefits.

The other option is for the wearable or health app to be invisible. Say what you want about society (and there are some notable exceptions), most people don’t care about their health. At least they don’t care enough to really do something about it. Sure, we all want to be healthy, but not enough to inspire action. I’ve seen it over and over again with apps. That’s why the health wearable or app has to be invisible and do its work without the need of intervention by the human.

Dr. Wen Dombrowski (Better known as @HealthcareWen) argued that there were other reasons too and then explained that her GPS wasn’t fun or invisible, but she used it. I think she’s right that there could be some areas where an app could provide a specific utility that could become popular. I just have yet to see that happen in the health space. Plus, what I find interesting about her GPS example is that GPS has tried to become more and more invisible as well. I love that my phone now knows my calendar and the GPS to where I’m going and tells me that I’m late and gives me an easy link to get the navigation. So, even GPS is heading the direction of invisible as well.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • General wellness and disease management require different levels of commitment and motivation. Those suffering from chronic condition(s) worry less about “fun” than gaining meaningful information to help control or improve their condition. This will be provided by the next generation of clinical-grade wearable sensors. See Sensogram for an idea of what the near future holds.

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