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Should We Continue Wearing Fitness Trackers?

Posted on December 28, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Wired recently published an article that says “Science Says Fitness Trackers Don’t Work. Wear One Anyway.” No doubt they chose the headline to cue off of the word science in our political world. However, their article lacked substance as to why people should wear a fitness tracker even though we’ve already said with our actions that we’re not interested.

In fact Wired leads off with this in their article:

Our devices, apps, and platforms, experts increasingly warn, have been engineered to capture our attention and ingrain habits that are (it seems self evident) less than healthy.

Unless, that is, you’re talking about fitness trackers. For years, the problem with Fitbits, Garmins, Apple Watches, and their ilk has been that they aren’t addictive enough. About one third of people who buy fitness trackers stop using them within six months, and more than half eventually abandon them altogether.

The follow this up with 2 studies that show that fitness trackers are ineffective but go on to argue that fitness trackers are getting better and so we should keep wearing them.

Needless to say, I’m not convinced and I don’t believe the majority of the population will be convinced either. I’ve long argued that what we really need mobile health sensors to accomplish is for them to become clinically relevant. Once these sensors are clinically relevant, then we’ll all wear them much more. Until then, these fitness trackers and other health sensors will just be novelty items which we discard after a short period (except for the crazy few quantified selfers out there).

It’s really a simple math. As soon as the value of wearing a health sensor outweighs the cost of wearing one, we’ll all do it. I believe that the key to showing that value is to make the data the health sensor collects clinically relevant.

Lately, I’ve seen some patient advocates suggesting that EHR patient portals should really embrace patients uploading their sensor data to the portal. While I think the posture of empowering patients outside of the office is important, there’s very little value for doctors or patients to have them upload their current sensor data. What will change this? That’s right…once the data becomes clinically relevant, then every doctor will want that data to be uploaded. This demand will drive every EHR vendor to implement it. Problem solved. Until then, don’t hold your breath.

What do you think of fitness trackers? Should we keep wearing them? When will health sensors finally become clinically relevant?

How to Track Your Health – Jump on the Self-Logging Bandwagon

Posted on February 6, 2012 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

Last week, I wrote about Margalit Gur-Arie’s idea for a national health data repository. Commenters, including Gur-Arie, had some great comments. And one of the things that came out of that post was that if there is ever a community run national database, I would happily log my health data into it, and maybe do it for my parents and kids as well. But I don’t really have a great track record of health-logging. I’m not a Quantified Self afficionado, I don’t even check my weight on a regular enough basis. Having my husband photograph me and gauging my weight by the relative puffiness of my cheeks is what constitutes a weight check in my universe. So what are the odds of me going through piles of paper records and typing it all up for a UHR? Slim to none, but a girl can still dream.

Wired published an article late last month on How to Use Tech to Track Your Health, just for people like me. Don’t worry, assures the article, self-logging ain’t that hard, it’s probably so easy even a cavewoman can do it.

Now, just because the article is on Wired doesn’t mean it comes with awesome pedigree and stellar writing. People, it’s 2012, not 1992. If I hear about one more app that sends you text reminders about getting your annuals done, I’m going to barf. Ditto for those tired ovulation trackers. I don’t know who I blame more. the tech companies that come up with these novel solutions after every iPhone developer and their mother has already created a dozen apps and websites around the idea, or the Wired writer who thought it was newsworthy enough to include in her round-up of the most happening ideas. Either way, I don’t care. I don’t want to know about any more reminder and calendar apps, not unless this magical app connects me directly to someone like Simon Cowell or Idris Elba (ok, I have a thing or two for Brit accents). See, there’s a business idea for you – have celebrities become our health coaches and cheerleaders. Some of us might be ready to pay for the privilege.

There are the usual sleep-pattern analyzer apps and personal sleep coaches that help you get a good night’s worth.

Kvetching aside, not everything in the Wired article sounded like it was floated circa the 1900s. I quite liked reading about the BodyMedia biometric patch that apparently works like one of those ciggie patches, and logs your sleep, heart rate etc for upto a week. It is intended to be used a week prior to your appointments, presumably so you can bombard your doctor with the aforesaid minutiae. I also liked the Moodscope idea – you can go to the Moodscope website and play a game, and your reponses to the game are used to gauge your mood. I can imagine how useful that could be to people who might be prone to depression or who want to chart what external stresses produce what reactions in them.

I haven’t used any of the apps or gadgets mentioned in the article, so I’m just reacting at a very surface level to the idea behind the product/service. And your mileage may, of course, vary.

Check it out here.