Wearable health technology in medical and consumer arenas
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The battle between Android vs. iOS continues to rage on, and it has now pulled healthcare into the conversation. Many are now comparing health platforms -- Google Fit and Apple Health -- offered on these operating systems. Consumers have become more reliant on using mobile devices in their day-to-day activities. Will this comfort with technology lead patients to store and share clinically relevant health information on their mobile devices? Will the adoption of wearable technology accelerate the digital health trend?
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The wearables market is still relatively immature, but it is growing rapidly. The majority of Americans may have a smartphone or tablet, but they don't currently use a wearable activity tracker like a Fitbit or a Misfit Shine. I often hear people say, "I already know that I'm inactive. I don't need an activity tracker or an app to tell me that." Of course, the compelling notion behind an activity tracker is to gain motivation, feedback and social accountability to drive change in behaviors and prioritize physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices.
The public is becoming more aware of wearable activity trackers, but most have not made the financial and motivational investment to use these devices on a long-term basis. This is where smartwatches could find their niche in healthcare. They could be a force that compels people to wear an activity tracker for prolonged periods of time. If smartwatches catch on as a major trend, then there will be massive amounts of physical activity (and possibly heart rate) data available.
The medical community is not ready to process such a volume of information, but it could generate valuable information that public health professionals could analyze to improve overall population health. For example, this information could reveal how the behavioral patterns and attitudes of business executives differ from stay-at-home moms.
As people move about in their day-to-day activities and track pieces of data through their wearable devices or smartphones, we may gain enough insight into their actions to formulate major public health awareness campaigns. These health awareness initiatives may target sedentary behavior at home, healthy snacking when traveling, reducing stress experienced during business meetings, and much more. A primary care provider may be equipped to provide tailored health tips and suggestions for patients who are willing to share all this information.
Google and Apple may soon be sitting on so much health information they will need effective analytics tools and algorithms to generate meaningful conclusions from all the big data collected through their apps and platforms. It makes sense to start tracking physical activity, fitness and eating habits. These are behaviors most people can control and change. Plus, physical activity and diet are major contributors to healthy living, disease prevention, and even certain disease management programs. The launch of these health platforms could help the general population be more health-conscious.
Personal fitness trainers are using smartphones and tablets to offer a concierge-level of personal training to individuals in their home. Physician adoption of telemedicine is growing as physicians gain a better understanding of the rules and regulations that govern this evolving technology. The mobile device is becoming much more than a phone, an information tool or a portal to the Internet. The mobile device could someday be tailored to health services, driven by a combination of patient data input, cloud-based analytics and automation, and a human touch from a nurse or physician who understands how to interpret and effectively share this information with their patients.
About the author:
Joseph Kim is a physician technologist who has a passion for leveraging health IT to improve public health. Dr. Kim is the founder of NonClinicalJobs.com and is an active social media specialist. Let us know what you think about the story; email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.
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