Consumers to HealthTech: 'We Are Ready for You'

What social media conversation tells us about market readiness for new healthcare technologies

Would you exercise more if you could measure exactly how much you need it?

Healthcare technology is betting you’d say yes. Digital amulets like fitbits and smart watches  that nudge without judging prod users to get up and move if they slip into a sedentary  mode, which for many is a default state. America today has 40% adults and 18.5% children who are obese, and there is enough research that links obesity to lack of exercise than a poor diet. A fitness device may not be the solution to this problem but if a small band can motivate a person to move more, sleep better and track changes in their body, it can be a good place to start.

Over recent years, Americans have steered the healthcare conversation towards wellness, trusting that prevention has got to be better than cure. Consumers are focusing on eating less and better, being conscious of their consumption and exercising more.

This approach begins with more than just ditching packaged foods and take out, but a holistic approach to healthy living which calls for paying attention to what you eat, and exercise routine that contributes to a stress-free lifestyle. There is no better place to see this move toward wellness than in social media conversations; people flock to social media and online forums to talk about their fitness goals, routines and the food choices they make.

The message this sends to the health tech companies is: consumers are ready.

In this post, we discuss how the market is prime for innovation in healthcare technology by looking at three factors:

  • Consumer adoption
  • Audience perception
  • The road ahead for healthtech

Give me your fitness, I’ll track it

Do consumers care more about their health when they’re solely responsible for it? Are fitness tracking devices replacing personal trainers that push you until you drop? Do people feel more accountable when tracking their exercise and diet routines digitally than in a community setting?

These are some questions we asked while looking at the surging conversations on consumer healthcare technology on social.

In our analysis, we surfaced the top consumer-facing healthcare technologies. The consumer healthcare technology conversation has grown substantially from 2010 to 2016. The most precipitous growth came in 2016, when the conversation more than doubled in size. Of all the different types of healthcare technology discussed, mobile apps dominated the conversation with 49 percent share of voice.

Within the mobile apps discussion, 43 percent of the discussion focused on fitness and nutrition apps, while 7 percent centered on mental health apps. Generally, consumers appreciated the convenience of mobile apps. Wearables had the second highest share of voice, at 12 percent. Brands like Fitbit and Garmin help track users’ activity levels in real-time, helping them accurately assess their exercise.

Research suggests that in another three years, one in five Americans will be using fitness trackers.

That is not surprising as we know that people love to post about their fitness successes on social media, and apps like Myfitnesspal has helped make it easier for exercisers to stay accountable.

As people become aware of patterns in their physical activity, wearable tech companies are giving themselves a pat on the shoulder. This is also egging them on to forge new and creative partnerships. For instance, K4Connect, that makes healthcare software for and those with disabilities partnered with Garmin on wearable devices for residents of senior living communities, to better monitor heart rate and sleep.

Microsoft also struck a licensing deal to share its wearable patents with Casio for its smartwatches.

Mobile apps are another strong vector accelerating the conversation. From 2010 to 2013, it wasn’t quite clear which healthcare technology would dominate discussion. But from 2013 to 2016, it became abundantly clear that fitness and nutrition apps are the most popular type of healthcare technology by far. So much so that it’s cutting into other traditional fitness aids like personal training.

The chart above alludes to that trend, showing a dip in conversations about personal training and a rising number of posts discussing MyFitnessPal on social in the last four years.

The fitness tracker discussion grew from 10% of share of voice in 2012 to over 60% in 2017, with FitBit leading in conversation volume. We now know that consumers are quick to adopt and adapt to this technology but do they consider it being efficient?

Keep me fit, bit by bit

Analyzing consumer conversations around fitness trackers on social uncovered interesting insights about consumer perception of wearables. It’s not so much the technology itself but how consumers are calibrating their fitness routines using them.

These technologies induce motivation and accountability by creating a community of users. People discuss how fitness trackers, particularly Fitbits, motivate and inspire them to exercise. The community aspect of challenges with friends and family encourage people to stay fit while having fun.

And companies are quick to pick up on these cues. Fitbit lets you add friends who use Fitbit and compete with them for steps on a daily basis.

While healthcare technology elicits excitement, the determining factor of whether a type of technology lasts or fades is its effectiveness. Consumers are interested in learning about the results a technology can deliver, looking past the hype.

The fitness tech that most people deem useful are mental health apps, with 93 percent calling them effective versus 7 percent ineffective. Patients say that mental health apps provide relaxing effects and keep them committed to care, like taking notes on their mental health condition.

Not every kind of healthcare technology is as effective. Fitness/nutrition apps, which has the  second highest percentage of people saying it is effective, lags mental health apps by 12 percent. However, users say that apps like MyFitnessPal help them monitor their calorie intake, and consistent use helped them lose weight. Closely following fitness/nutrition apps are wearables, with 80 percent deeming them effective.

The  scientific jury is not yet out on the effectiveness of these devices but the industry will claim that more adoption will lead to better product iteration.

Conclusion

Health and fitness trends are notoriously fickle; what is in vogue one month is often passe the next. But some technologies come to stay. Understanding consumer opinions about wellness is essential for brands in countless industries — from gyms to app makers.

Probing social media data can answer a very crucial question — How willing are consumers to adopt a new technology? These insights into consumer intent can help brands steer their strategy i to align with consumer priorities and preferences that win the popular vote.

For more healthcare insights, download the full report here.

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