Getting useful data from wearables still a challenge for doctors

wearable smartwatch
Wearables can provide a ton of health data, but seldom in ways doctors can actually use in a clinical setting.

Patients generate more health-related data from wearable technology all the time—but that doesn’t always mean doctors can use it.

As the number of wearable devices capable of tracking health-related metrics continues to grow, the ultimate utility of fitness trackers and wrist-worn heart rate monitors remains questionable. Despite some promise for tracking certain patients’ health between office visits, most physicians have seen little clinical use for the majority of the data generated by the most common wearables.

Part of the issue with wearable data may lie in the difficulty doctors have in integrating that information into current electronic health record (EHR) systems, suggested an article in Medical Economics. John Sharp, senior manager of the non-profit Personal Connected Health Alliance, said physicians and patients might be better served by a system that pulls wearable health data into a common interface.

He pointed out that physicians simply don’t have the time to page through reams of raw data to locate relevant trends or patterns.

To the extent wearables turn their focus toward metrics keyed toward improved outcomes in patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure, the trend aligns well with the industry’s ongoing push toward value-based care.

If the wearable market continues to grow as predicted, Sharp believes EHR vendors and third-party software providers will find ways to close the gap.

“I’m optimistic this change will occur and all that technology and workflow and teamwork will make it happen and will lead to improved healthcare,” said Sharp.

Such efforts have begun to some extent, according to the article, which noted an existing partnership between Validic, a medical software vendor, and Sutter Health in California. The organizations have begun working together on a federal pilot project examining best practices for providing data in a form physicians can use to improve patient outcomes.