Will Your Fitness Tracker Help Your Doctor?


Smartwatches and fitness trackers are widely popular among fitness buffs. And why not? They help you track your calories consumed, calories burned and all sorts of body metrics that your pedometer could not.  While these daily data keep you motivated to work out and lead a healthy life, are they of any importance to your doctor?

Neil Sehgal, a senior research scientist at the UCSF center for the Digital Health Innovation said in a report, “Clinicians can’t do a lot with the number of steps you have taken.”

Just think about it. When was the last time your doctor asked you whether you were working out or have completed your 10,000 steps that day or not?

Sehgal said that these devices are not FDA approved for medical devices, instead they are sold under the ‘wellness focus’ category. The reliability of such devices is largely questioned.

I agree that he made this statement way back in 2015 and that the new range of fitness trackers do much more that count your steps. They track your heart rate, breathing pattern and even brain activity. These data may come handy to your doctor in a diagnosis.

“The fitness trackers are getting highly advanced with accurate sensors and algorithms but they still remain a ‘wellness’ device, not a medical device”

Andrew Trister, an oncologist said in the same report as above that niche wearables like Embrace- the wristband that can track Seizures might be of importance to the doctors. In fact recently in New Jersey, a doctor used the patient’s Fitbit data to track his heart rate in the last two days which he said was necessary to find out before going on with a particular treatment.

This of course was an exception. Your fitness tracker may churn out data that might be of help medically but the question of reliability still remains. When given an option, any doctor would like to gather data in a traditional and reliable way rather than believing whatever your fitness band has to say.

No doubt, the fitness trackers are getting highly advanced with accurate sensors and algorithms but they still remain a ‘wellness’ device. While I am happy to keep count on my work outs and activities, I do not think they may help our doctors yet, at least not until they are validated clinically to perform in the standards of a medical grade device.


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