A roadmap for integrating smartwatches into Australian healthcare has been developed by researchers from the University of Queensland, but they acknowledge several challenges to overcome.
Dr Graeme Mattison from UQ’s Faculty of Medicine said using smartwatches for a comprehensive analysis of a patient’s health could enable personalised care for those diagnosed with diseases including obesity, diabetes and arthritis.
However, there are five challenges preventing the health sector from using smartwatches in clinical decision-making, including data accuracy and interoperability.
The roadmap focuses on three themes to address the challenges – building digital health prevention foundations, transforming preventive care using data and analytics and harnessing learning systems to enable precise disease prevention.
Smartwatches track health metrics such as step count, heart rate, sleep quality and blood oxygen levels, but the data have varying degrees of accuracy. Therefore, it is essential to differentiate between medical-grade and recreational-grade data to avoid potential overdiagnosis and heightened patient anxiety.
If smartwatches were to be integrated into clinical decision-making, regulations would be needed regarding how the devices display digital health information. Currently, the algorithms used to interpret health measurements are controlled and owned by individual smartwatch manufacturers, which impacts the capacity for other parties to decipher the information. Therefore, doctors would need formal training to quickly interpret vast amounts of smartwatch data.
Dr Mattison said the roadmap is a guide and smartwatches are far from being integrated, with further questions existing around data ownership, storage, and accessibility.
“With greater regulation and data research, health care professionals can further their understanding of smartwatch use in chronic disease — with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes for consumers.”