People love their fitness trackers — their Fitbits, Jawbone UPs, and Nike+ Fuelbands. But are wearable devices actually going to move the needle in health care?
Mobile health evangelists are keeping a hopeful eye on developments like Apple's HealthKit, which envisions leveraging "big data" and more communication between patients and physicians to revolutionize care. But medical experts are more skeptical.
Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician and director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research at Indiana University School of Medicine, touches on this in his latest Healthcare Triage episode.
Data itself doesn't create change; that data has to be used by someone. And doctors are unlikely candidates.
"No endocrinologist, no matter how dedicated they are, wants to know every glucose value of every patient every day," Carroll says in the video. "No primary care physician wants to know every patient's daily weight."
Providers are already overloaded by information about their patients, which makes it harder to pick out the important medical updates from the mundane. "Research shows that over one-third of doctors have reported personally missing test results that led to care delays for their patients because they're already overwhelmed by alerts and data. More data isn't the answer."
Carroll adds that we could be smarter about how we aggregate that data, but even then, improvements are modest at best. A big part of the problem here is that the smartphone-type technology that is so hot right now isn't really used by the populations who stand to benefit most: the elderly and the very poor.