HRS, Industry Team Up on 'Wearables' Best-Practices Guidance

January 09, 2020

Clinicians have teamed with industry on a best-practices document for wearable biometric-monitoring devices to help prepare the public for what is looking to be a revolution in its relationships with both technology and healthcare professionals.

Guidance for Wearable Health Solutions, developed jointly by the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), is aimed at helping the public's understanding of wearable biometric monitors to keep pace with the devices' potential and implications for self-care.

The best-practices guidance goes far beyond the Apple Watch and dedicated activity trackers, to include technologies predicted to make an impact but that have been less scrutinized in studies.

Wearable technology, it notes, "includes everything from fitness trackers, smartwatches, virtual and augmented reality headsets, smart glasses, earwear, smart clothing, and even smart jewelry. It is one of the fastest growing sectors of the technology industry."

As it states, the document "was reviewed by physicians, nurses, patient advocates, technology companies, and healthcare organizations." It became available online January 9 on the HRS and CTA websites to coincide with its unveiling at a morning panel presentation at the trade association's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Wearables can be helpful for monitoring patients who already have a diagnosis, but it is for people who are not patients that this document is intended, lead author Nassir Marrouche, MD, told | Medscape Cardiology.

"They're not sick or seeing a physician yet; that's the population we're focusing on, people who have these devices and are using them," said Marrouche, from Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans.

Clinicians are already seeing a lot of individuals "who are using a wearable device to track their health, to track their fitness, or because they are worried," even though they aren't sick.

"We're living in a world that is unknown," he said. "It's our responsibility as physicians" to respond to this phenomenon. The HRS "saw a need as a society to be part of that process with consumers, manufacturers, the people using the devices, and start partnering with them."

The document presents potential "big picture" advantages of wearable biometric monitors, including the opportunity they afford for individual participation in one's health, encouragement of healthy behaviors, "earlier and more accurate diagnoses, more personalized treatments, and better outcomes," it states.

It addresses security, privacy, and regulatory concerns that affect the consumer as they relate to the confidentiality and the disposition of the collected biometrics, and touch on the significant challenges clinicians are bound to face.

Those challenges, the document notes, go beyond the "potential tsunami of data from wearables" that patients will produce. "Clinicians have traditionally been the gatekeepers of health information. That role is changing as patients want access to, and control of, their own health data."

Marrouche pointed to the importance of collecting the data generated by wearable devices, and encourages physicians to communicate with consumers to "guide them in sharing their data" for use in clinical studies. "The more data that we have, the smarter these devices will get."

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