Will Fitbits Be the Next Tool in the Healthcare Toolbox?

Jun 25, 2018 | Uncategorized

Look around at everyone’s wrists. Fitbits, Apple watches and hosts of other activity monitors have replaced bling-y wristwatches and bracelets. These little data-gatherers are monitoring and collecting data every minute of the day, from steps walked, to hours slept. And with every new generation of device, the list of health data they can collect gets longer, including heart rate, blood pressure and more.

SUBHEAD: How will all this personal data be distributed and protected?

Some of these devices could even provide patient data to doctors, leading to cheaper, more efficient care. But that will take separating useful and accurate devices and data from superfluous ones. The clinical accuracy and privacy of many devices are still unproven. Unlike medical devices regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, there’s no approval process requiring the makers of consumer electronics designed for “personal tracking” to meet a medical-grade quality standard.

Another concern is patient privacy. How will all this personal data be distributed and protected? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides protection for data collected through FDA-approved medical devices but doesn’t say anything about safeguarding information from consumer health trackers. Without privacy and security provisions for data collected through consumer electronics, companies are free to profit from the data.

These devices will only become more sophisticated as the technology develops and it’s likely they will be integrated into most everyone’s health care in the not-too-distant future. But reliability, security, and privacy will have to be factored into the adoption in order to have the best possible impact.