Improving upon previous generations of fitness trackers and heart rate monitors, today’s wearable health devices are providing deeper insight into health and well being. However, all that glitters is not gold. While the helps us track every step, heartbeat and hour shuteye, are they doing anything to help us take better care of ourselves? Not yet.

Trendy cuffs, smart t-shirts and adhesive patches are helping people stay apprised of a growing number of health indicators, including oximetry, hydration and blood glucose levels. This could be a boon to improving care for the nearly 45 percent of adults living with one or more chronic conditions, but first we need to clear a few hurdles.

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6 Challenges to Using Wearable Devices for Improved Care

  1. Access: Many people simply do not have the means to purchase a device in the first place. When you consider that nearly one in 10 people can’t afford health care essentials, like medications, wearable medical devices are simply out of reach for many people.
  2. Data validity and reliability: Since wearable devices aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration there’s no way to assure their data is clinically valid. To make the shift from simply monitoring biometrics to managing serious health conditions, we need standards to ensure that device data is reliable and accurate.
  3. Lack of numeracy skills: People have varying degrees of proficiency and comfort when it comes to using numbers in everyday life (numeracy). Even people with high literacy levels might not understand numeric data that reveals a potential health problem, such as a spike in blood glucose or heart rate.
  4. Early abandonment: Wearable devices can’t improve care when they’re sitting in a drawer, yet as many as 1 in 3 people abandon their device after just six months. This is especially true when they’re uncomfortable, too conspicuous or need to be taken off frequently for battery charging or data downloads.
  5. Lack of data privacy: Wearable device manufacturers aren’t covered entities under HIPAA, so they’re free to share data with third parties. Another risk is that unprotected data is an easier target for hackers compared to HIPAA-protected data, which requires encryption and secure transfer.
  6. Liabilities are unclear: If a practice agrees to accept wearable device data and there’s a sudden change in data value or the flow of data stops altogether, do physicians bear responsibility for investigating their well being?

Did we miss anything? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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