[author: Michael Esquivel]
The New York Times recently ran a story titled, “It’s hard to stay friends with an exercise monitor” that underscored a problem facing many health and fitness apps – the risk that users quickly lose interest.
Initially users are enthusiastic about the transformational potential of the personal health data collected by wearable technology devices such as the Nike+ FuelBand. That initial enthusiasm, however, appears to largely diminish if the metrics tied to that data are confusing or inconsistent. As noted in The New York Times story, while the Nike+ FuelBand has been criticized for its inconsistent and sometimes bizarre feedback, its ambition to provide meaningful and actionable metrics by awarding points should be recognized as a helpful first step in realizing the tremendous potential of these wearable technology devices.
But meaningful feedback should involve more than points and badges. As Aimee Jungman, VP of Innovation at frog design, pointed out at our Digital Health Summit in June, to create stickiness, mHealth products have to put data in the context of an aspiration or goal; and that data has to be actionable.
Furthermore, social interaction needs to move beyond simply telling your Facebook friends how far you’ve walked or run in a given day. It needs to be able to include, for example, virtual coaches and mentors.
In the rapidly evolving digital health sector, some early mHealth products will probably go the way of the pet rock, but each iteration teaches us more about what it takes not only to capture users but also to retain them.