Don’t Bring Your Wearables’ Data to Your Doctor Appointment Yet

4 min read · 7 years ago


Wearable technology has thrust patient care back into the spotlight by providing a means for patients to help contribute data about their own well-being, but there are several challenges the healthcare industry needs to overcome–on both the patient’s side and the doctor’s side–in order to be able to use this data effectively.

wearable fitness devices

photo credit: Flickr via photopin (license)

Patient Challenges


First and foremost, patients need to decide if they are willing to part with their data. Wearable technology isn’t going to broadcast your data to your doctor, so you’re going to have to make a decision as to whether you’re willing to share. There are plenty of reasons a patient wouldn’t want to share, not the least of which would be that the patient simply didn’t follow the recommended exercising or sleeping routines suggested by a doctor.

That said, surveys indicate more than 65% of patients worldwide would be at least “somewhat likely to share data” with their doctor, according to Morgan Stanley Research. Even more patients would be likely to share their data with their insurance company for a discount on their premiums.

Asking Doctors

Since only 15% of US consumers own and use wearable technology according to a study by Nielsen, the healthcare industry has not come to expect data collection from wearables as a default means by which to evaluate patient health. The responsibility, then, lies on the patient to ask the doctor if he or she can incorporate data gathered via a wearable. But, are patients willing to ask their doctors about using the data?

According to an informal survey, patients are asking, but only a small percentage of them. Forbes’ writer Zina Moukheiber reported that only 15% of the doctors in her survey recalled receiving requests from patients about using data from a wearable device. This one survey hardly proves an exact percentage as to how many patients are asking, but it does show that the population has not adapted the technology to a point where medical personnel have to change.

These numbers could change after the Apple Watch comes to prominence, of course. Still, depending on whose numbers you use, the number of fitness devices out there is at least close to 20 million. That’s a lot of devices that aren’t being fully utilized.

Doctor Challenges

Accuracy of the Data

While we’ve focused the discussion on how and when data will be shared, we must also realize that doctors don’t always want to use the data provided by wearable devices. This is for a number of reasons, chief among them: the accuracy of the data itself. For now, the data collected by fitness apps is not accurate enough to be considered of equal importance as data collected in the doctor’s office. The information in your app can give you a general sense of how to work on your fitness, but doctors cannot trust that the information is medically sound.

Fitness devices are not examined with the same scrutiny that regulators place on medical devices, and device manufacturers may not want to deal with the extra red tape required for officially approved equipment.

The Amount of Data

Even if all of the data was accurate, the next major hurdle is the individual doctor’s willingness to dig through it all. Consider that most doctors are already very busy and that they do not have an automated means of pulling in your data to extract relevant information. They would need to review the information in the same way that you do, and they may not have the time to do it.

Beyond the time required is the actual relevance of the data. Your sleep cycle or your exercise routine may have little to nothing to do with the reason you’re seeing the doctor in the first place. At that point, the aforementioned factors fall away. The available data is simply the wrong tool for the job.

Can the Apple Watch Help?

The big question is how well Apple’s new product will be able to address these concerns, and it will likely be a step forward in how wearables are used in medical technology. Apple has made no secret that this device is meant to have a place in the healthcare field. ResearchKit — Apple’s open platform system — has already been in use on a variety of devices, and apps from Doximity, WebMD, and a handful of other companies are already rolling out.

Data will certainly improve, but there are several hurdles to still overcome for critics and supporters alike.

The wearables category is ripe with opportunity, and the following year will reveal how much we will be able to take our health into our hands.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Don’t Bring Your Wearables’ Data to Your Doctor Appointment Yet

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