Like it or not, personal health technology has become smarter.
Using sensors that collect data on physical activity, heart rate, blood pressure and other indicators, the list of fitness trackers that go beyond Fitbits and other activity trackers gets longer every year.
“It’s definitely going to happen,” said Dr. Joseph Kvedar, vice President of the health chain at Partners HealthCare in Boston and an associate professor of dermatology at harvard medical school.
Kvedar predicts that some of these devices will lead to better health care systems and cheaper, more effective care. However, this will require the separation of useful devices and data from redundant devices – this is not an easy thing to do. Not everyone is convinced that the changes brought about by individual health stalkers will be great. The clinical accuracy and privacy of many devices remain unchanged.
Despite this, recent developments have made personal health tracking more powerful and undeniable, even for skeptics.
“It’s getting better and better,” Piwek said. “maybe two or three years ago, the problem was even worse. “He says machine learning algorithms are getting better at picking out complex patterns from noise.
According to Piwek, one such algorithm might be Sleep Number’s “smart bed” technology. There are sensors embedded in the entire mattress.
“These sensors can detect any movement in your body,” said Pete Bils, vice President of science and research at Sleep Number. “When your heart beats, your body actually presses against the mattress, and then we pick it up,” he said. “When you breathe, your chest moves, and we choose it.”
Bils, explained that the bed put these send to sleep the number of computer data and other data, in this algorithm, the algorithm can calculate the Numbers, and send you smart phones alarm, remind you sleep “good”.
The sleep number’s smart bed tracks the user’s heart rate, breathing and other movements throughout the night to calculate how well a person sleeps.
A polite sleep number.
Does it affect your health? Perhaps. The algorithm becomes smarter based on user input from consumers who already have beds.
“We collect 4 million biometric data points from thousands of sleepers every night,” Bils said. The algorithm combines this information with the research of the company’s sleep laboratory.
“There are changes in your sleep patterns that indicate greater features,” Bils said. “We are beginning to determine what these changes represent – whether it’s heart problems or respiratory problems or sleep disorders.”
The bed is still a way to tell you if you have any confident sleep apnea. For example, in some cases, restless sleep and a higher heart rate may be the result of a night of heavy drinking.
The sleep number algorithm “seems to be an ongoing work,” Piwek said. “Based on existing research, it is difficult to create complex machine learning predictions, such as sleep apnea or heart rate conditions.”
But many companies are studying the problem, he says, “it could be just a matter of time” before a good solution can be found.
As for sleep Numbers, beers says the company doesn’t plan to actually diagnose anything. ‘you still want your doctor to have a more thorough examination,’ he says. But the hope is that sleepers in smart beds can help their doctors catch health problems before they are fully developed — or at least catch up early.
Other companies have turned to more traditional health tools – such as blood pressure cuff links, weight scales and heart monitors – into consumer electronics. Many of these are for those who only interested in individual indicators, but these devices are looking for their solution, used to support people with chronic diseases such as diabetes and alzheimer’s patients.
The Massachusetts general hospital in Boston, managed by Partners HealthCare, has tried a monitoring program for patients with heart failure. Each patient has an Internet connection weight scale and blood pressure cuff that transfers data to the medical team.
“If the reading goes beyond the parameters, the clinician will be in contact with the patient and can intervene before the illness worsens,” said Kvedar, who studies the project. He says the tracking technology has helped reduce hospital readmission rates and reduced costs and mortality, at least in the first few months of use.
The real dream of the personal health monitoring evangelist is to extend these programs to people who are not sick. Kvedar imagines “a world in which everything is measured, everything is proactive and preventable, and we respond to it before we get sick.”
By collecting, he said, sleep, exercising, heart activity, weight and other information network of intelligent device equipped with powerful artificial intelligence clinical team can make more authorized to remote medical decisions, he said, less office visits.
“It takes care away from the hospital and the doctor’s office,” he says, “and makes it a continuous function in your life.”
This vision represents a kind of technological utopia, but Piwek at the university of bath is less optimistic. He says even if patients are committed to using these things, there are still many problems.
“People give up on them in a few months because they don’t find enough value in the device,” says Piwek. After all, if you are in good health and have no disease risk, monitoring yourself may not be worth the extra effort.
Many doctors are also skeptical about the usefulness of data from consumer electronics devices, Kvedar said.
“Doctors are concerned that data overload is real,” he said. “Some health care providers may suspect that internet-related blood pressure cuff links are as reliable as the cuff links they’ve been using for years.”
Piwek’s concerns about reliability are particularly acute in consumer health electronics. He says many consumer devices can provide accurate information to meet clinical standards, but others may not.
Unlike the U.S. food and drug administration’s medical devices, there is no approval process that requires consumer-electronics makers who design “personal tracking” to meet medical quality standards.
“The tests have been done [for consumer electronics such as ecg monitors], and the results are different,” says Piwek. “Sometimes the wearables are closed and sometimes they are very close, but if the clinician is going to use them for diagnosis or prescription, they can’t get the wrong information from the device.”
Piwek says how all these personal data will be distributed and protected is another cause for concern. The health insurance portability and accountability act HIPAA provides protection for data collected by medical devices and medical professionals approved by the FDA. But it did not mention information about protecting consumer health trackers.
Without privacy and security rules for data collected through consumer electronics, the company could open up your data for trading, Piwek said.
Even if it’s anonymous, he says, the data can be cross-referenced with other information, “which can reveal your identity. “[in insurance or damage to your model, activity and health analysis is dangerous.”
In principle, he says, access to the data allows insurance companies to infer something about you – for example, you have pre-existing conditions.
How to use these devices to deal with reliability, security and privacy issues are issues that need to be addressed quickly, Piwek said. Personal health electronics are rapidly becoming a major part of our environment. He argues that integrating these devices into everyone’s health care will one day.
“This is the future we have to face,” Piwek said. “That’s what the government is doing.”