Ever since the advent of the smartphone, the idea of using commercial portable technology to monitor and improve individual health and fitness has caught the imagination of healthcare innovators. The evolution of new digital health tools has allowed an increase in user engagement and provided a doorway to personal health beyond the professional provider. Phones, smart watches, and dedicated wearables are able to monitor, record, and measure items such as heart rate, steps, and blood sugar. They have been built up to a highly personalized level of sophistication.
The technology is available, but the missing component is the clinical studies and results.
With so many different products available to the public, there has been difficulty establishing a baseline for an effective telehealth product. As stated by Eric Bender in his article Putting Digital Health Monitoring Tools to the Test, “many early attempts to truly test the efficacy of such digital technologies have shown them to be a flop in clinical trials — in large part because participants drop out. An analysis of five health apps built with Apple iPhone software, for example, found that only about one-eighth of participants, or less, were still hanging in after 10 weeks. Another recent study out of Singapore found that about 200 people outfitted with fitness trackers showed no better health outcomes than a similar control group after a year. And when Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles invited about 66,000 patients registered on its portal to share data from their fitness trackers, less than 1 percent did so, according to a paper published last year in the journal PLOS One, part of the open-access Public Library of Science.”
Technology is a touchpoint where health professionals can reach patients consistently. Both the public and private sector are keen on finding out how these new devices improve public health and behavior, but until then, the effectiveness of each tool is up to speculation.
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