The recent HIMSS 2023 conference highlighted the significant role of data driven personalized healthcare in today’s healthcare space, in line with the growing emphasis over the last few years. CI’s healthcare research team was encouraged to see the growing importance placed on data-driven personalized healthcare, which aims to make care more tailored, proactive, and engaging for patients. This can include wearable ECG devices in the form of smartwatches.

Wearable devices like Apple Watches and Fitbits have become increasingly popular as they offer a convenient way for users to track their health information and stay connected to their healthcare providers. In 2022, 82.7 million, or almost a quarter of US population, owned a wearable device. This percentage is projected to grow to 27.2% in 2025. Of these individuals, around 40% use their watch to track their health or wellness. As the use of wearables for health tracking becomes more widespread, it will be important to continue to evaluate their effectiveness and usability to ensure that they are meeting the needs of patients and healthcare providers.

The use of wearables to perform electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) testing is one promising development that could help patients and physicians detect and monitor heart conditions more effectively. Beyond ensuring the accuracy of the device and testing itself, it is critical to ensure that patients engage with their smartwatches properly and understand how to use them to perform accurate ECG tests. Corporate Insight’s December Health System Monitor Report employed interviews and user testing to provide insight into how patients interact with their wearable devices and use them for ECG testing.

The findings from this ECG wearable devices report are covered in our upcoming webinar, including in these four main areas:

User Sentiments

The report discusses the motivations of users who conduct ECG tests on their smartwatches, highlighting that aging and overall health concerns are key drivers. Users prefer aesthetically pleasing devices that integrate health technology with social functions and are compatible with familiar technological ecosystems. The research also dives deeper into the data-sharing habits patients engage in, why users seek out ECG monitoring devices, and how well (or not well) they understand their ECG results.

This screenshot shows a slide from CI's report on ECG devices
An excerpt from Health Plan Monitor’s Report on ECG Devices

User Behaviors

The report also examines the behavior of users regarding ECG tests on their smartwatches. We looked at the reasons—behavioral and physical—that prompted patients to begin smartwatch ECG use. Our research team also examined how often users look at their ECG results, whether they use data sharing features, and the overall frequency and history of test use.

ECG Journey

The report covers the journey of conducting and reading an ECG on four different smart watches, as well as the corresponding mobile app. We examine how users complete initial steps to launch an ECG and view ECG details. We review the setup, text display, and results presentation and depth, as well as the value-added functions that some watches allow. Some devices allow users to log symptoms, such as fluttering or skipped heartbeats. Several journeys, meanwhile, lacked intuitive navigation to the ECG results.

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The report examines the journey of getting an ECG reading from various devices

Education and Support

In line with concern about bombarding consumers with un-contextualized medical data from wearables, our research indicates that the majority of interviewees demonstrate a poor understanding of ECGs. Individuals benefit from robust and digestible information, findable from the wearable tech or associated devices.

With wearable tech’s potential to improve patient engagement, enabling remote monitoring and facilitate early intervention, providing healthcare providers with a better understanding of actual patient use is critical. There are still challenges to overcome in the adoption and implementation of wearable technology in healthcare, such as providing appropriate education to patients to more effectively use their technology to better their health.

For more on these devices and the report, sign up for our free webinar on cardiac wearables.