Several Studies Analyze Effect of Health Tracking Devices

June 24, 2014 in News

An increasing number of physicians, insurers and researchers are conducting studies to assess whether health tracking devices can help improve patients’ health, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Background on Health Tracking Devices

Health tracking products include fitness tracking devices such as Fitbit watches and bands and Nike’s FuelBands, as well as more specifically designed products such as LifePatch, which monitors children’s body temperature, and BellaBeat, which allows pregnant woman to monitor their fetuses’ heartbeat.

According to the Journal, these devices are in a “regulatory gray area” since patient privacy laws that apply to the commercial use of patient data are not applicable to the manufacturers of consumer devices.

Details of Studies

According to the Journal, a variety of studies have been conducted to analyze the effect of health trackers on patients’ behaviors and outcomes.

For example:

  • One study found that patients with Type 2 diabetes who used a pedometer and received motivational texts were better able to control their blood-sugar levels than patients who did not receive the texts;
  • Another study that provided cardiac-surgery patients with FitBits found that patient who moved more the day after surgery were more likely to be discharged earlier; and
  • Most of the 30 healthy 80-year-olds who received fitness trackers in another study said the devices did not influence their behavior because they forgot that they were wearing the devices.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente is conducting more than 12 pilots to evaluate the medical value of consumer wearables (Dwoskin/Walker, Wall Street Journal, 6/23).

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