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

#ChatHIT: Wearable technology in healthcare held back by cost

In this #ChatHIT recap, participants discuss definitions of wearable technology in healthcare and what affects its adoption in clinical settings.

Many providers are using, piloting or evaluating wearable technology in healthcare for wellness programs or population health applications -- particularly for monitoring patients with chronic conditions.

But, beyond the debate of the usefulness of wearable-produced data, the cost of the devices appears to still be an issue for healthcare systems and physician practices.

In this tweet chat hosted by SearchHealthIT and moderated by David Chou, M.D., CIO at University of Mississippi Medical Center, health IT thought leaders and SearchHealthIT staffers held a dialogue about wearable devices.

Wearable health technology is useful, many in health IT agree. But whether the data it generates is medically relevant and cheap enough for large-scale healthcare applications are questions that SearchHealthIT asked Twitter users to discuss in this tweet chat -- SearchHealthIT's second such event, with an earlier tweet chat on Internet of Things in health IT in July.

Affordability was a key issue up for discussion, and the chat's moderator, David Chou, M.D., CIO, University of Mississippi Medical Center, was unambigious about his view.

Meanwhile, Shaun Sutner, SearchHealthIT news and feature writer, echoed Chou's assertion, saying he had learned in his reporting that with wearables proliferating so rapidly, affordability is likely increasing.

Another participant in the tweet chat, Kim Towne, digital analytics manager and risk management coordinator at Fathom Healthcare, saw ROI for wearable health technology in other areas. So did Chou, who implied that wearables can help keep patients healthier at home, as well as that healthcare consumers are looking more and more to manage their own health outside of traditional care settings.

A point of skepticism entered the discourse when the media specialist who staffs the Twitter account for the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME) asked:

The chat also zeroed in on the sometimes nebulous definitions of health wearables. such as where the line exists between consumer and medical devices. Alex DelVecchio, SearchHealthIT site editor, who runs the Health IT Exchange Twitter account, had this view:

Chou's outlook was similar, though he added the qualifying element that a patient must be involved. Many consumers use wearables for purely fitness and wellness; so, while their devices, in many cases, capture and transfer biometric data, these users are not patients in the traditional sense.

Chou also classified portable insulin pumps and even subcutaneously implanted sensors as wearable devices. Towne disagreed on that point, in part, while agreeing with Chou's view of the medical application of wearables.

As for the future of this fast evolving technology, Chou and even a sometimes skeptical observer of health wearables, Scott Wallask, news director of SearchHealthIT, were sanguine.

So, a certain consensus emerged from this chat. While we may not understand the exact role of wearable technology in healthcare, or whether its cost is scalable, we know one thing for certain: Wellness devices are pervasive and are already a part of health IT and healthcare.

Next Steps

Back in July, #ChatHIT Twitter folk joined the SearchHealthIT team to discuss the scalability of IoT in healthcare and how the IoT can improve the patient experience.

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As the use of wearable technology in healthcare gains steam, is cost the biggest roadblock?
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