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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Wearable health technology in medical and consumer arenas

Wearable devices in healthcare: Success dependent upon patient engagement

As wearables enable patients to become more proactive with their health, the use of such devices in healthcare becomes more relevant, according to #ChatHIT.

Wearables are becoming increasingly, medically relevant and important to patient care, health IT professionals agreed during SearchHealthIT's #chatHIT tweet chat last week. The value of wearable devices in healthcare stems from -- and is being driven by -- several factors, including patients becoming more proactive with their health, wearables becoming more affordable, and doctors beginning to get on board, as well as play a role in the adoption and use of wearables.

Joining the SearchHealthIT team in the discussion of wearable devices in healthcare was digital expert David Chou, CIO at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Scroll through our recap below to see who else chimed in during last week's #ChatHIT.

Chou began the conversation with a confident "definitely" in response to whether wearables are medically relevant, and more experts chimed in -- including the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security and Kim Towne, digital analytics manager and risk management coordinator at Fathom Healthcare, a digital marketing and analytics agency -- echoing Chou's ideas.

Not only are patients more motivated to take charge of their health, thereby pushing the adoption of wearables in healthcare, but some doctors recommend wearables and even prescribe certain apps to their patients.

Furthermore, wearable data is now beginning to be ported into major EHRs, furthering their medical relevancy.

As wearables become generally affordable, more people are likely to use them for their healthcare needs.

However, there are still concerns when it comes to wearables, as participants discussed in the tweet chat.

First, the flood of data -- or "data tsunami," as Chou referred to it -- is a big obstacle. Not all data is good or helpful. Sorting through the information that wearables generate to find value presents a challenge. However, some health IT professionals believe data analytics will play a key role in overcoming this challenge.

Second, protecting the privacy and security of patient data is a longtime worry, especially because healthcare organizations are mandated to comply with regulations like HIPAA.

However, confusion continues to surround HIPAA, including what counts as personal health data and what exactly the privacy law protects.

In a recent SearchHealthIT article, experts explained that if a person simply goes out and purchases a wearable, the health data that device collects is not covered by HIPAA. However, if a person receives a wearable device through a hospital or doctor, then the health data that device collects is covered by privacy regulations because it was issued by a HIPAA-covered entity. Even then, it is important to note that HIPAA -- specifically the HIPAA Security Rule -- defines protected health information (PHI) as information such as a patient's name, address, phone number or Social Security number.

However, other information -- heart rate data, for example -- is not considered PHI and, therefore, not covered by HIPAA. One expert also added that if a cybercriminal hacks a wearable device and gains access to the owner's blood pressure measurements, it doesn't pose a major threat to the user.

Some people participating in SearchHealthIT's tweet chat were skeptical about how true this statement is.

Meanwhile, #chatHIT's host, Chou, believes that many IT professionals -- especially CISOs -- do not trust the security of wearables and the data they generate.

Ultimately, there are still a lot of unknowns with wearables that the industry needs to figure out.

Next Steps

Last month, #ChatHIT participants discussed the secret to scaling IoT in healthcare and how the Internet of Things is improves the patient experience.

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