Wearables accurately predict patient outcomes

A wrist-worn step tracker is an adequate tool to measure exercise capacity and the health status of patients, replacing a standardized six-minute walking test in a clinical setting, according to new research from Intermountain Healthcare.

The discovery illustrates how effective wearable technology has become in the medical field, enabling healthcare organizations to monitor patients remotely. The wearable space has become a hotbed for investments, and the market is expected to reach $54 billion in 2023.

Researchers from the not-for-profit healthcare organization––which is based in Salt Lake City and has 24 hospitals, a medical group with 2,400 physicians and advance care practice providers, 160 clinics and 38,000 employees––found that step trackers worn on the wrist delivered data that can be used to monitor patient progress and disease management.

A group of 52 patients wore wrist step counters for a period of 12 weeks, and patients also filled out respiratory symptom questionnaires. The group included adults with a history or respiratory problems. The findings were presented Sept. 29 at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Madrid, Spain.

"For patients, this means we can track their progress more frequently in a manner that's less expensive and more convenient than current standardized testing," Denitza Blagev, MD, lead investigator of the study and pulmonary and critical care physician at Intermountain Healthcare, said in a statement.

The standardized testing known as the six-minute walk distance (6MWD) has been a baseline to assess exercise capacity by predicting outcomes and mortality for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular diseases based on how many meters they cover in six minutes of walking. With wrist-worn wearables giving more data to healthcare providers, patients can be monitored more frequently and without the need for a clinical setting.

“Now, we may be able to measure patients on a regular basis and know if we need to intervene if their estimated 6WMD by step count changes,” Blagev said.