The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
the Medical Front Lines

Wearable Technology Is Helpful, But Not Perfect

Wearable Technology Is Helpful, But Not Perfect

We have all seen this scenario before: A patient comes in and tells you that they've seen a concerning reading on their smartphone or smartwatch regarding some health data. Do you believe the data? The patient most certainly does, and they are insistent that something must be done to determine the problem. Well, in most cases, we can believe the data from a smartphone or watch—but with some reservations.

According to a recently completed study at the University of Michigan, researchers looked at blood pressure readings on an Omron blood pressure cuff. They compared it to data collected (blood pressure, heart rate, and activity data) on an iPhone and Apple Watch. The study, which is ongoing and part of a 3-year project, finds inconsistencies between the readings from the different techniques, and in some cases, the differences are significant. The early data shows that activity levels are significantly different between the iPhone step count and Watch counts. Also, the iPhone's battery life may be shorter than that of the Watch and could potentially impact how health data is analyzed. Calling out this type of difference will allow technology companies to hone their products so patients can receive the most accurate data. As healthcare providers, we must keep aware of these types of studies to educate our patient population. While the interaction between cutting-edge health recording and our patients is great, we must proceed with some caution to not always take it at face value.

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