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Physician fits bracelet wearable into fitness and fashion

A cardiologist and medical adviser to health IT startups sports a bracelet-style wearable from Jawbone for workouts and her job and says wearables in healthcare are here to stay.

When Suzanne Steinbaum, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), takes her Portuguese Water Dog and Havenese Poodle out for midnight walks near her midtown Manhattan apartment, it's often to catch up on her steps.

Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist, director of heart health at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital and medical director of mobile health (mHealth) wellness vendor Wanda Health, uses her elegant Jawbone UP3 bracelet wearable to count those steps.

Clasped around her right wrist, the black and silver bracelet wearable blends in stylishly with Steinbaum's other fashion wristwear as the busy physician rushes around the city accumulating steps toward her 10,000 steps a day goal.

While Steinbaum, 48, gets to the gym for high intensity aerobics/Pilates style sessions and workouts with her trainer and uses her elliptical machine at home when she can, that's not always possible.

"I do whatever I can do, but my schedule is erratic," she said. "I really put this on to make sure, on those days I can't get to the gym, I am hightailing it."

Steinbaum is a strong believer in the effectiveness of wearable devices in motivating people to work on their health and wellness by becoming more physically active and staying at it.

About 80% of heart disease is preventable with lifestyle changes, Steinbaum asserted, and using wearables is a simple way to maintain cardiovascular health.

"My practice's focus is on prevention and lifestyle management, so I believe accountability, awareness, being mindful of all those things are part of what makes people better understand what it means to take care of themselves," she said. "And I believe wearables fit into that bucket."

Even as a wearables booster, Steinbaum is a stern critic of the devices' deficiencies.

She said her UP3 wearable, whose vendor touts its advanced sleep monitoring with galvanic skin response sensors, isn't that accurate in measuring her sleep. And wearables in general are fairly erratic in gauging heart rate, Steinbaum said.

I tell everyone who has a wearable that every day you can do it is a good day, and if you don't, it doesn't matter.
Suzanne SteinbaumD.O.

In any case, Steinbaum is a believer in the step counting capabilities of wearables and was an early adopter. She got an early clip-on Fitbit model when it first came out in 2008. Today, her 10-year-old son wears a Fitbit.

These days, Steinbaum works with My Wanda, the wellness app, onto which she said the company is planning to integrate patient-generated activity data from wearables. She is also involved with another startup that is developing medical grade heart rate monitoring devices.

In the meantime, it's all about the steps.

Late nights sometimes find Steinbaum, when she isn't out with her dogs, doing step ups in place or walking around her apartment to catch up.

"I'll just make sure I do something" to reach 10,000, or somewhere near it, she said.

Suzanne Steinbaum, D.O., preventive cardiologist, director of heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital, medical director at Wanda HealthSuzanne Steinbaum, D.O.

"If I'm not, I was on a plane, giving a speech, at a seminar," Steinbaum said. "But I don't torture myself. I tell everyone who has a wearable that every day you can do it is a good day, and if you don't, it doesn't matter."

But devices such as Steinbaum's bracelet wearable can help people take control of their own health, she said.

"When people become accountable and aware, that's when behavior changes."

As for the widely noted problem of people discarding their wearables after an initial spurt of use, Steinbaum stated that, "you have to make it relevant."

"It has to become relevant in a person's life, and you have to understand what it means to use it and why you do it," she said. "As a physician, you can teach a person how to empower himself, that's part of your job."

Another way wearables can produce more sustained engagement is by becoming more accurate and applicable to more activities, such as bicycle riding and swimming, Steinbaum said.

Next Steps

OCR HIPAA audit director uses Fitbit smartwatch for training runs

Wearable health technology to treat pain and diabetes

Corporate wellness programs are promising turf for wearables

This was last published in September 2016

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