Contextual Insights from Wearable Technologies Will Improve People’s Health

Most docs [doctors] say health wearables provide little helpful data,” writes Joanne Finnegan in a recent FierceHealthcare article. The author cites studies and expert commentary to argue that the value of raw data from Fitbits and other wearable health devices is negligible.

Finnegan makes a fair point. A recent HealthMine survey of 2,500 consumers enrolled in health plans (in 2016) reveals that 46 percent of Americans using digital health tools say data from such tools have no bearing on their health. Dr. Farzad Mostashari, a former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, points to the lack of interoperability between digital health apps and wearable devices as a major weakness. Put another way, data from different devices don’t talk to each other, leaving an incomplete picture of a person’s health.

Data from different wearable devices don’t talk to each other, leaving an incomplete picture of a person’s health.

We, at Neura, agree that part of the challenge with making data from wearables actionable is that the data streams from different devices remain separate from one another. If we synthesize this disparate data to generate contextual, holistic insights about individual users, it will drive big health improvements.

If we synthesize disparate data [from different wearable devices] to generate contextual, holistic insights about individual users, it will drive big health improvements.

One way to fill this gap is with artificial intelligence (AI).

Consider an example of a person living with diabetes. Let’s say this person generates data from three sources: a fitness tracking device, a smart glucometer that logs blood sugar readings, and sensors in their smartphone. A machine learning algorithm might detect a pattern around when the user goes to the gym, when they walk more than 15,000 steps in a short timeframe, and when they suffer extreme hypoglycemic reactions.

While the individual data points may not provide health insights independently, together they show how real-world events impact a person’s health.

Leveraging AI to gain actionable insights enables wearables to finally drive better health outcomes.


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