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15:19 PM

KQED: Little Proof that Wearable Biosensors Benefit Patients

In a story on the KQED science blog, writer Danielle Venton outlines the path often taken by technological innovations in medicine.

While new technology may create a frenzy of anticipation during development, it may fail to live up to expectations, Venton writes. She concludes that any disillusionment dissipates if the technology improves and regains credibility.

She points to recent research by Cedars-Sinai investigators, which found a lack of proof that wearable biosensors are improving patient outcomes such as weight or blood pressure.

Published in the journal Digital Medicine, the meta-analysis looked at 16 randomized controlled trials, published from 2000 to 2016. To be included in the study, devices had to be non-invasive, wearable, and capable of automatically transmitting data to a web portal or mobile app for review by patients or health providers. Among the devices tested were internet-connected weight scales, blood pressure monitors and activity trackers with text-message reminders.

The investigators were not surprised that these devices aren’t moving the needle yet, and they hope their work will pave the way for better development and use of remote health monitoring.

“We’re trying to emphasize this is not the end of wearables,” said co-author Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai. “[But] we don’t want to overpromise what these can achieve.”

One bright spot: The authors found some positive effects in certain cases. For example, a study looking at Parkinson’s patients found a positive impact when physical therapy included devices that gave feedback about their gait. And in some trials, patients did lose weight.

Read more at Venton's blog.