Physicians, and much of the public, remain hesitant of the self-tracking movement. Many are uncertain how constant activity monitoring will lead to better health and wellbeing.
First, many physicians are reluctant about patient-generated data because they are concerned of the “large stacks of paper” doctors will have to review. Let us clear away this misconception. Individual people will not manually sort through thousands of hours of metrics. Large self-tracking data sets are the perfect purview of machine algorithms. Physicians and patients should expect actionable summaries from the data.
Second, physicians are relatively unimpressed with the idea that activity trackers are part of the groundbreaking future of medicine. Lack of excitement here is reasonable. The current consumer market is saturated with activity trackers. These relatively simple devices track the number of steps, stands, slouches, sleeps we take each day. It is easy to see how physicians are unsure how such devices will save millions of lives . Keep in mind, that this is the early stage, it is only the low hanging fruit. Future technology poses more opportunities.
As the technology becomes cheaper, activity trackers now incorporate more ‘biosensor’ technology. Such as heart rate, temperature, and oxygen saturation. Data fidelity is still being worked on, but is certainly improving.
The big breakthrough for improving medical outcomes will be in biosensors. However, biosensors have barely reached the market. Currently available biosensors can track in real time one’s EKG, blood pressure, and blood glucose. In development include devices to monitor in real time lactate, urea, creatinine. Nanotechnology has been developed to predict heart attacks two weeks out. Implantable biosensors are able to measure cardiac impedance.
Biosensors will help move medicine from reactionary to proactive. They will help both acute and chronic health conditions. Do not write off this potential for patient-generated data to save lives, and improve morbidity.
Thanks to: Eric Topol for drawing attending to the difference between activity trackers and biosensors.
 This article isn’t intended to slam activity trackers. These simple devices have already have proven themselves in areas such as individual exercise, and reducing hospital readmission – such as in heart failure.