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Wearable Biosensors Have No Significant Impact on Clinical Outcomes

Kaitlynn Ely
Analysis of randomized controlled trials finds there is not enough proof that wearable biosensors actually improve patient outcomes, such as weight and blood pressure, according to a study by Cedars-Sinai investigators published in npj Digital Medicine.
There is not enough proof that wearable biosensors, including trackers that count steps with the goal of improving health, actually improve patient outcomes, such as weight and blood pressure, according to a study by Cedars-Sinai investigators published in npj Digital Medicine.

Wearable biosensors have gained popularity over the past few years as advances in technology have been able to integrate biosensors into watches, wristbands, skin patches, and smartphones. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) allows for these wearable devices to transmit data to a web portal or app for the patient to monitor data on their phone or tablet. Many of these wearable biosensors market themselves by saying that RPM improves patient outcomes and decreases healthcare spending while increasing physician satisfaction. However, ittle empirical evidence has been gathered to prove that biosensors are able to improve overall individual health.

The authors evaluated randomized controlled trials to assess the effectiveness of using wearable biosensors to record RPM on clinical patient outcomes. They also analyzed specific features, such as, blood pressure monitoring and step count—to see which elements had the most success in improving clinical outcomes. RPM devices included in the analyzed studies were blood pressure monitors, cardiac event recorders, electronic weight scales, physical activity trackers, and accelerometers.

From January 2000 to October 2016, a statistical analysis and literature review of 27 studies across 13 countries was conducted. Most of the patients included in the studies were overweight, suffered from heart or lung disease, had chronic pain, or were diagnosed with Parkinson disease.

The researchers specifically looked at body mass index, weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure in individuals and concluded that RPM made no significant impact on these clinical outcomes. The analysis did find that medical conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson disease, hypertension, and low back pain were improved by tracking RPM through these devices. Interventions to improve patient outcome through RPM deemed most effective by the authors included social science models and established care guidelines. Personalized coaching was also an effective way to improve individual health.

The authors found that not enough literature is available on the subject to prove that wearable biosensors create any significant impact on patient outcomes.

"As of now, we don’t have enough evidence that they consistently change clinical outcomes in a meaningful way," senior author Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai, said in a statement. "But that doesn’t mean they can’t."

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