Analysis shows lack of evidence that wearable biosensors improve patient outcomes

January 16, 2018, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Wearable biosensors. Credit: Cedars-Sinai

Wearable biosensors have grown increasingly popular as many people use them in wristbands or watches to count steps or track sleep. But there is not enough proof that these devices are improving patient outcomes such as weight or blood pressure, according to a study by Cedars-Sinai investigators published in the new Nature Partner Journal, npj Digital Medicine.

"As of now, we don't have enough evidence that they consistently change in a meaningful way," said senior author Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai. "But that doesn't mean they can't."

Wearable biosensors—noninvasive devices that automatically transmit data to a web portal or mobile app for patient self-monitoring or health provider assessment—have been touted as a means to reduce healthcare utilization, decrease costs, generate research data and increase physician satisfaction.

In their literature analysis, Spiegel and his co-authors found that remote patient monitoring with these sensors had no statistically significant impact on any of six clinical outcomes studied: body mass index, weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage, systolic and . The analysis found that these devices did show early promise in improving outcomes for certain conditions, including , Parkinson's disease, hypertension and low back pain.

"There is a big difference between using these sensors to track sleep for self-betterment and using them make medical decisions," said co-author Michelle S. Keller, MPH, a clinical research specialist at the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education.

Investigators did a statistical analysis and in-depth literature review of 27 studies from 13 countries published between January 2000 and October 2016. Each study examined the effects of remote patient monitoring using wearable biosensors.

The interventions targeted patients who were overweight or suffering from heart disease, lung disease, chronic pain, stroke or Parkinson's. The devices studied included physical activity trackers, monitors, electrocardiograms, electronic weight scales, accelerometers (devices measuring acceleration) and pulse oximeters (oxygen saturation monitors), among others. These devices were embedded in everything from watches and belts to skin patches and textiles.

A statistical analysis of the relevant literature revealed that remote patient monitoring resulted in no significant impact on any of the reported clinical outcomes. Certain types of interventions worked best, including efforts grounded in social science models and established care guidelines and those that used personalized coaching.

Lack of data may be the culprit. Of more than 4,000 studies the authors initially reviewed, fewer than 1 percent were eligible to be included in the study, and only 16 were considered high-quality research. The authors found very few randomized controlled trials for each of the clinical outcomes analyzed, and studies varied significantly in terms of the types of devices used, the populations studied and the interventions tested.

"Many of the studies we reviewed were still in the pilot phase," said lead author Benjamin Noah, a clinical research associate at the Center for Outcomes Research and Education. "There just is not enough data yet."

Explore further: Activity matters: How Fitbit can help us understand cancer surgery recovery

More information: Benjamin Noah et al, Impact of remote patient monitoring on clinical outcomes: an updated meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, npj Digital Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41746-017-0002-4

Related Stories

Activity matters: How Fitbit can help us understand cancer surgery recovery

December 6, 2017
A new study published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine finds that more activity during inpatient recovery predicted lower risk of 30- and 60-day readmission after surgery for metastatic peritoneal cancer. By monitoring patients ...

Home blood pressure monitoring for hypertension best combined with intensive support

September 19, 2017
People who monitor their own blood pressure at home are most likely to see a benefit if they combine it with individually tailored intensive support, according to a new systematic literature review and meta-analysis published ...

Blood pressure control best achieved with a multilevel, multicomponent approach

December 25, 2017
Current clinical guidelines recommend lower blood pressure targets for the general population, yet control remains elusive for most. A new study suggests that patients with hypertension can best achieve blood pressure control ...

One in three hospitalized patients experience symptoms of depression, study shows

June 2, 2017
About one in three hospitalized patients shows symptoms of depression, potentially affecting their clinical outcomes, a new Cedars-Sinai study has found.

Education can promote self-management in CVD conditions

June 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Therapeutic patient education interventions can promote self-management in selected cardiovascular conditions, according to a scientific statement published online June 19 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality ...

Changes in diet may improve life expectancy in Parkinson's patients

November 24, 2017
New research from the University of Aberdeen shows that weight loss in people with Parkinson's disease leads to decreased life expectancy, increased risk of dementia and more dependency on care.

Recommended for you

Sweet, bitter, fat: New study reveals impact of genetics on how kids snack

February 22, 2018
Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The good and bad health news about your exercise posts on social media

February 22, 2018
We all have that Facebook friend—or 10—who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.