Cardiologists and Wearables

Mark Bard writes:

Your Cardiologist Does Not Want Your Wearable Data – Addressing the Concerns of Physicians As We Enter the “Connected Health” Era

Last week we discussed the current and future market opportunity for patients with heart disease to utilize health and fitness trackers. Only 12% of cardiovascular/heart disease patients are using trackers – and only 6% more report they are interested in using them in the future. However, understanding the patient side of the question is only one side of the equation. For connected health (and wearables) to drive the most value we really need the cardiologists/physician to be part of the equation through utilization of the data in care and treatment planning or by providing positive reinforcement to patients using the technology.

Recent data from Digital Insights Group show approximately 1 in 4 cardiologists currently have patients sharing data from fitness and activity trackers (such as Fitbit) with them in their practice. This number is higher than the number of patients using a device because it reflects the population of physicians with any patients using a device to share data with them in their practice.

Beyond the current population of cardiologists utilizing patient generated activity and fitness data, future interest (based on current devices and data streams) remains limited at the current time. In an effort to better understand what is holding back all those physicians we explored some of the barriers to making the move – or using data from patients attempting to share the data with their physician today.

The number one objection among cardiologists today is … Fear of Data Overload. Just over half of cardiologists agree the potential stream of user-generated health and activity data may be too much to assimilate, integrate, and utilize with regard to making treatment decisions. This underlines the importance of tools and dashboards to help physicians (and their team) better understand the trends, outliers, and how to quickly and efficiently integrate the data into their existing medical records platforms.

The next one (and perhaps understated given we don’t have a lot of examples in this space yet) is the liability of receiving this data from patients. In other words, imagine the deposition lawyer asking a cardiologist about when his practice received data showing the patient was clearly engaged in physical activity that placed them at risk given their recent diagnosis and proposed treatment plan. Yes, we’ll eventually be able to limit the scope and place the responsibility back with the patient … but until that time cardiologists (and physicians overall) will be cautious to blindly accept user-generated data.

Finally, one that will take time to address is the concern that the data generated from various devices lacks any sense of “data standards” that can be used to plan care for specific patients. In other words, will one or two platforms became the “gold standard” for key cardiovascular and heart related metrics generated by these platforms? Have those metrics been verified in clinical trials (or any trials) to show a correlation to health, wellness, treatment, and outcomes?

The transition to connected health has already begun and the latest push from Apple and Google should help move the industry forward. However, engaging the physician and addressing their key concerns (data overload, liability, standards) will be critical to making the transition effective for both the patient and their physician.