The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


Patients are more likely to track their physical activity levels with a smartphone than a wearable device.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

A study led by Penn Medicine professor Mitesh Patel found that patients are more likely to track their physical activity levels by using a smartphone, rather than a wearable device, Penn Medicine News reported.

Patel, who is also the director of Penn Medicine's Nudge Unit, found that discharged patients who used smartphones to track their daily step counts were 32% more likely than those using wearable devices to continue sending the information to the researchers six months after leaving the hospital, according to Penn Medicine News.

“Most people with smartphones take them everywhere they go. Since carrying the phone is already a built-in habit, it makes it much easier to use the device to track activity levels,” Patel told Penn Medicine News.

Patel also told Penn Medicine News that wearable devices are more unreliable because a patient can take it off and "never put it back on again."

The researchers also found that men were more likely to report data than women, and patients with Medicaid insurance were less likely to report their data than patients with other insurance, according to Penn Medicine News.

The research team selected 500 patients from two different Philadelphia hospitals and placed them into two groups, Penn Medicine News reported. The participants were either given an app on their smartphones or a wearable device to track their daily steps after being discharged from the hospitals.

“Our everyday health behaviors contribute significantly to our longer–term health,” Penn medical professor Kevin Volpp told Penn Medicine. “These mobile devices give us a window into daily activity patterns that could be used to help design interventions to improve health outcomes.”

Former Penn Medicine professor and co-author of the study Daniel Polsky noted different potential uses for using smartphone apps and wearable devices, Penn Medicine News reported.

“It’s important to consider the tradeoffs between smartphones that may be used for longer periods and wearables that can track other types of data like heart rate or sleep patterns,” Polsky told Penn Medicine News. “With that, it’s important to consider all factors and their affects, which could include things like demographic information.”

A 2015 Penn Medicine study found that smartphones and wearable devices were both accurate methods for measuring physical activity.

The study was part of research predicting the likelihood of patients being readmitted to the hospital after discharge, according to Penn Medicine News. The researchers will next examine whether smartphones or wearable devices can better predict readmission.

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.