Munich, November 15th 2018
Under what conditions can wearables help us answer this and similar questions?
At the eMEC 2018, the international conference on electronics in e-health and medical applications, at electronica last week Prof. Dr. med. Halle, Medical Director and Specialist in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Sports Medicine, Cardiovascular Preventive Medicine DGPR® at the Technical University of Munich, and Dr. Johannes Kreuzer, co-founder and managing director of Cosinuss GmbH, discuss this subject and provide their respective insights. Josef Lechner from Analog Devices took over the moderation.
Here are the key take-aways:
Inaccurate gadgets and misinterpreted readings make healthy people go seeing a doctor. This wastes time, money and nerves but does not help in any manner.
However, if wearables could actually tell you that you are just shaving your life by 5 days by tracking and interpreting biomarkers, you would probably start living healthier. For example, if I knew that the next time I smoke a cigarette it costs me exactly 5 days of my life, I would think twice about really smoking it.
To be able to create statements that are at least a bit close to that, it is essential to continuously capture different biomarkers (vital signs and other data). Why? Because thereby you are able to recognize what normal fluctuations of your values are, how they could be related to each other and consequently also see when the deviations are no longer in the normal range. In that case you can and should go and see a doctor. If everyone knew exactly what their normal values are, doctors would be only dealing with really relevant cases. And the knowledge of the individual normal of a patient would help them a lot as well.
The reasons for worsening of somebody´s health can not be identified by one single parameter. Only when many different accurately captured biomarkers are used for analysis can reasons for a change in health be recorded and visualized.
An increased heart rate, for example, may depend on many factors: Physical activity, excitement or even too much roast pork and three beer the day before.
Wearables can only than provide medical added value, only than provide insight into the health of a person if they in the first place capture relevant data for the respective question, secondly if they can measure accurately and thirdly if the measured values can be obtained by adding medical knowledge to evaluate and interpret. For example, a activity tracker that counts steps and that can be tricked with simple arm movements may not even begin to allow the same relevance / statement regarding the physical performance of a person as a good chest strap or in-ear-sensor that accurately measures heart rate.
Hearing aids are perhaps the oldest wearables. They are not the ones most liked but by giving their users a real benefit, they exist and are used widely. The chest strap is another good example for giving their users relevance: Although lot of athltetes complain about their inconvenience, they are still using it because it provides real added value to them when wanting to reach a performance goal.
Wearables, or rather, let’s call them mHealth solutions that use sensor technology to capture accurate and relevant human data, and secondly provide real value to users in the context of medical knowledge, are worth their weight in gold. Because the insights gained empower users to not only assess their lifestyle and health but also to directly control and improve both.
- Only if wearables are able to continuously capture relevant parameters with high accuracy we have the essential data base to be able to create insights into our health.
- Captured data has to be combined with evidence based research and medical know-how in order to find answers for the respective questions.
- Visualisations of captured data and insights are the key to empower people to assess and manage their health on their own.