Wearable Technology Vital to Digital Health Industry

By Morris Panner

Apple WatchDevelopments in Health IT are key to a future of seamless interoperability and increased quality of patient care. At the same time, healthcare comes with its share of red tape; it is an industry that is hesitant to change, and at times, for good reason. It may be helpful to look to other rapidly developing areas of healthcare as indication of best practice when it comes to health technology.

An example of an innovative organization thinking about implications of digital health advancements is Apple. The company recently revealed it would be paring back on the health monitoring technologies that will come with the Apple Watch because the sensor technology is not yet up to its standards.  Only when the technology is up to par will features be added. Essentially, if Apple is going to be offering a product that improves healthcare, it should work accurately and effectively. Health is nothing to mess with, even if new technologies may be exciting.

Many wearables and related health apps were featured at CES (International Consumer Electronics Show), and while most are still focused on fitness, many believe they will soon play a significant role in medicine and can develop into useful tools for patients. A few devices are already providing valuable medical data such as the wearable ECG, and the wearable EEG headband, which uses sensor technology.

The potential of these devices rides on the value of data that they will collect.  What benefits can this data provide to the patient and their care team? While this data certainly can be useful, there is the question of who will manage and analyze these vast data sets. The advancement of wearables has sparked the debate of whether this data belongs on the medical record. There are different theories of how it should be incorporated, which attempt to tackle how to organize and utilize such large amounts of data for individual patients. One thing is clear: the value of this data will have to be considered in determining in what capacity and to what extent wearable data will be on medical records. The future of wearables is exciting, and as the medical field and technology continues to evolve, we must consider how best to use these devices and data.

A recent Forbes article offers advice for developers on how to be responsible: don’t confuse data with insight, don’t confuse insight with value, don’t overestimate your ability to forecast from data, and don’t underestimate the implementation challenges. It is up to those in the Health IT realm and providers to work together to find the best solutions and not let the technology get ahead or in the way of the insights. That is ok, because it means that the best technology – the technology that will actually improve quality of care and interoperability for the long term – will last.

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Morris Panner is CEO of DICOM Grid.

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