The challenges of wearables for healthcare

19 February 2019

There is not only growing usage of wearables more generally but also a greater implementation of these within healthcare. Originally used to reach fitness goals, consumers are increasingly using these technologies to manage health conditions.

A recent survey by Rock Health found that in 2018, respondents adopted digital health tools at a higher rate than ever before. Almost 90%of respondents used at least one digital health tool, a significant increase from 80% in 2015. Although monitoring physical activity remains the main reason for wearable use, only 44% of users cited this as their top driver, down from 54% in 2017. This 10% decrease corresponds with a 10% increase in respondents using a wearable to manage a diagnosis.

However, there are a number of challenges for the integration of these technologies within healthcare. These include a lack of willingness for patients to share their data with clinicians, insurance companies, pharmacies, and research institutions. This trend is largely due to increased concerns about security.

Another difficulty is that physicians may not know how to interpret and use some of the data generated from wearables. For example, the clinical significance of resting heart rate is not entirely clear. In addition, healthcare professionals are often nervous about the potential to be held responsible for the way in which they have decided to use (or disregard) the data.

Currently, there is little research on these technologies, which adds to the uncertainty amongst both users and clinicians. A recent review of studies found only eight which explored the potential of wearables in healthcare, highlighting the gaps present within the literature. Despite the potential of these tools to improve services, engagement and ultimately outcomes for patients, there is an urgent need for high-quality clinical trials that incorporate data from wearable technology into clinical outcome prediction models are required in order to realise these goals.



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