People are ignoring doctor’s advice on wearables

heart-pulseA Nielsen study sponsored by The Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP) in the United States has found patients ignore the advice given by their doctors when it comes to using the data coming from their health and fitness wearables.

About 30,000 US patients were asked if their primary care provider had recommended using wearables. 5% said their doctor recommended a fitness tracking app, 4% said a biometric app was recommended and 4% said a wearable was suggested.

What makes these responses interesting is that the nu,ber of doctors recommending the use of apps and wearables is closer to 50%.

There seems to be a disconnect.

There’s little doubt that health and well-being technology can offer benefits for healthy people and for those that are unwell or managing an ongoing condition. My father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the 1980s and he used a blood-glucose machine to track his sugars back then. And there’s some research coming through suggesting wearable trackers do have a positive impact on activity levels.

Our healthcare systems are quite antiquated. Typically, patients visit a generalist physician who either makes a diagnosis based on some observations or they refer the patient for further tests or to a more specialised doctor. That process works reasonably well but is based on a series of point in time observations.

Technology gives us a different view of the patient – one in which longitudinal data can be easily collected for analysis. In a case recently reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, a patient was admitted to a US hospital with a newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation. By looking at the data on the patient’s wrist-worn activity tracker and smartphone application, doctors were able to the onset of the arrhythmia  and treat him appropriately, potentially saving his life.


A wearable patch is being developed that measures blood-glucose levels from perspiration. In time, such a device could be integrated into a monitoring tool for people who are at risk of diabetes or for people who are exercising and want to ensure they maintain adequate blood-sugar levels.

The applications of such devices are very broad.

One of the challenges for many health professionals is the quality of the sensors. Fitbit has been under fire for the accuracy of their PurePulse heart-rate monitors and there’s still some skepticism about the accuracy of other devices.

I don’t expect a $100 device to be medical grade – yet. Improved accuracy will come. It’s important to remember the health and fitness wearable business is still quite new with changes coming frequently.

Reference: Nielsen Study

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