June 7, 2017


Small wearable devices may lead to big health care savings (YIFTAH BEN AHARON JUNE 7, 2017, STAT)

About half of all Americans have one or more chronic conditions -- heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, and asthma, to name a few. Many chronic conditions arise from unhealthy lifestyles that include the usual suspects: poor diet, little or no exercise, and stress. These conditions account for the majority of deaths in the United States, and up to 86 percent of health care expenditures.

Look at diabetes as an example. Nearly 30 million Americans are now living with diabetes, and another 86 million have prediabetes, a higher-than-normal blood sugar level that can lead to diabetes. This disease accounts for unnecessary loss of vision, amputations, heart disease, kidney damage, and premature death. It also costs Americans $245 billion a year. But chronic diseases like diabetes need not take such huge personal or economic tolls. Easily implemented changes that digitize components of health and health care can lighten the load for people, their doctors, and the country at large.

Millions of Americans currently use devices to monitor their health and fitness. These include scales, activity monitors (Fitbit, Apple Watch, Microsoft Band, and the like), heart rate and blood sugar monitors, and more. The data they record can help people take more control over their health and lifestyles. They can also help doctors keep track of their patients' health, as information from these devices can be uploaded into electronic health records. Data from such devices could also alert doctors or first-aid workers to a problem that requires immediate attention, like a stroke or heart attack.

Personal health devices are already -- or soon will be -- sophisticated enough to detect medical conditions. For instance, if your fitness device indicates that your usual activity level has fallen off but your heart rate is higher than usual, it could be a sign that you are coming down with the flu or other infectious disease.

Posted by at June 7, 2017 5:18 AM