peruse the Western Digital website, last I looked they had various models of 3.5" drives... such as red, blue, green, look specifically for the models that are rated for powered on all the time and choose accordingly for read/write performance and frequency. I only mention WD because what I remember their website presented a model layout that was to the point, I'm sure all the other makers (seagate, toshiba, whoever) have similar model lineups. Whether the disk is internal to a computer tower of external which it really isn't, the disk is still in a case. Any external usb connected disk would operate no different, while always plugged in it would actually be off until you tried to read/write from it and take a couple seconds to spin up.
Is it healthy for such device to stay plugged in for a long time?
yes, especially when your operating system power policy spins the HDD down and or powers it off, same goes for SSD's. My old 3tb hdd's, in my tower, one mounted as D: (data) and E: (bkup) my D: disk is always on when the computer's on but 90% of the time the E: disk is powered off by windows because I never access it until I need to copy something from D: to E: to back it up. The same would/should be the case for your external usb disk given how you mentioned non-continuous read/write needs of it.