Can clinical relevance be found in all of the data collected by wearable devices that individuals use? It is a key question around the use of such devices, especially as consumer devices grow in ubiquity along with corresponding rises in adoption. Optimistically, all of the data is not just for fun or without usable insight.
Evidence of Value
New research from a small cohort of patients offers a positive assessment of the data. The research involved wearable sensors such as activity trackers for 22 patients (an admittedly small sample size) who had pulmonary arterial hypertension. The wearable tracker was used by the patients in between visits and then care team members collected information about 26 health measurements at each visit. The combination of information enabled the care teams to find statistically significant differences.
Confirming the importance of the data could help drive an understanding of where remote monitoring fits into the picture. Remote monitoring (often referred to more specifically as remote patient monitoring) is designed to use wearable or other devices to collect certain information that can help manage specific conditions through virtual interactions. If the collected data are shown to be clinically relevant and important, then remote monitoring can )and really should) help drive improved outcomes.
Further, knowing the positive impact of collected data could help refine the development of the devices by focusing on certain metrics or improving the performance in certain areas. That can be seen in the annual releases of different wearable devices (think the Apple Watch) that keep adding new features directly aimed at healthcare use cases. Those developments would likely accelerate if actual use cases are proven out.
Why It’s Important
Why is the growing evidence of an impact important? The importance ties back to what is hopefully the continued movement into value based care. If value based care relies upon data and becoming proactive, then it is essential to know what data can be used and how it can be collected. Proving out the claims of a benefit is necessary because it gets behind the hype or promotional claims.
Getting deeper than the hype also enables the selection of the appropriate pieces of data to collect along with how to refine the collection. That refinement also goes to another concern related to the use of wearables: flooding clinicians with data that could create liability. The frequently stated concern is that if data are presented to care teams and not acted upon, then the care team could be liable for a missed diagnosis or other issues that become worse because an action is not taken.
The liability fear is not unfounded. When an injury occurs, a claim can follow that disrupts a clinician’s practice for potentially years on end. That concern also offers an opportunity though. If research can prove what data make an impact, then analytics or other tools can be developed to sort through the data and present the data in a relevant manner. Solutions are getting there, but it is helpful to know what information can or should be presented and how to do it in a way that fits into a clinical workflow.
Where to Go From Here?
The next steps are likely to continue developing proof of how wearable data can make a difference while simultaneously refining how to incorporate the use of such information into clinical workflows and decision-making processes. The specifics are a long way from being settled, but interweaving technology in all of its iterations (includes wearables, virtual care, analytics, and more) along with traditional in-person care. Optimism certainly exists and a path forward can start being seen.
This article was originally published on The Pulse blog and is republished here with permission.