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New research from Intermountain suggests that data collected through digital step trackers could help with the care of patients with respiratory disease symptoms.
The study analyzed data from 20 patients with a history of respiratory symptoms during days with elevated air pollution.
Patients wore fitness trackers for 12 weeks and completed surveys throughout the study asking them to evaluate their respiratory symptoms. They also completed weekly six-minute walking tests–generic tests used in hospitals to assess patients with respiratory diseases.
Researchers found that the fitness tracker data correlated with the results from the walking tests and patient surveys.
The findings, though based on a small sample size, suggest that fitness trackers may one day supplant more expensive hospital tests in helping doctors assess patient symptoms and could help provide a more convenient and less expensive way for hospitals to provide care to patients with chronic illnesses.
The research was presented last week at the European Respiratory Society International Congress meeting in Madrid. The annual meeting hosts more than 20,000 delegates and includes over 400 scientific and educational sessions on the latest peer-reviewed research and products addressing respiratory disease.
The fitness tracker news comes after it was announced that a new app could significantly benefit those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
This potentially opens up a new market for wearable technology vendors, who are ready and waiting to provide new monitoring devices for patients and healthcare providers alike.
Fitbit is already ahead of the game with the launch of Fitbit Premium, a service that provides personalized wellness reports based on a patient’s activity levels, heart rate, sleep, and weight fluctuations.
The company is also planning to launch and test a brand-new coaching program later this year that is specifically designed for patients with chronic diseases. Livongo, Onduo, and Omada Health have also joined the market.
Wearable devices may stop the need for 6-minute walking tests at hospitals, reducing the amount of time patients must spend in a clinical setting.
It would also mean care providers could be alerted to changes in a patient’s medical condition more quickly than through results from testing at regular intervals.
Intermountain has been conducting research to allow for value-based care models where providers are paid based on the cost and quality of the services they provide.
The health service has also pushed for more at-home care to become available for the most complex and ill patients both for their comfort and to control costs.
It has since launched Intermountain at Home which aims to bring treatments and technologies normally available only at hospitals into the home.
The hope is that patients’ medical costs will be lowered, and hospitals will reduce their admission rate to relieve the pressure put on staff.
The US is also currently seeing the rise of personalized healthcare through home blood testing.
Researchers noted that broad conclusions should not be drawn about the Intermountain product until further studies have been undertaken.