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Wearables Must Answer the 'So What?' Question

Wearables Must Answer the 'So What?' Question
 Large volumes of raw data with no insight may actually hinder adoption of wearables and digital health technologies. 

Large volumes of raw data with no insight may actually hinder adoption of wearables and digital health technologies. 

Arundhati Parmar

There's one thing that developers of any new technology, and especially clinical wearables technology must avoid doing. 

Create technology for technology's sake. 

On the contrary, what is truly valuable and needed in understanding how to treat the patient better is to be able to answer the question, 'So What?"

That was the advice of Ranndy Kellogg, chief operating officer of Omron Healthcare, who was a speaker on the wearables panel at the AdvaMed 2015 conference in San Diego on Wednesday.

"My device tells me I don't sleep good," Kellogg said. " Guess what? I knew that. So what? What did you just tell me that I didn't already know. If algorithms can be developed that say, 'You don't sleep good because [of] X that now becomes an answer to the 'so what' question and my physician or I can do something about it."The problem with the current generation of wearables and mobile health tools is that they have the ability generate unimaginable amounts of data but do not connect the dots. 

"The challenge on the clinical side is 'What do I do with the data?'" Kellogg explained pointing to this as one of the causes impeding doctors and hospitals adopting wearables. "There's may be too much data. What is the right data for what I need for that particular patient, that particular consumer. Just because I [as a consumer] can collect the data doesn't mean I need to sent it to my doctor."

That is a challenge not simply for clinical wearables but for digital health tools in general that are framed around data collection and data transfer.

A similar sentiment was conveyed last year by Martin Kohn, who worked on IBM's Watson project and is currently is chief medical scientist at Sentrian. In a presentation at the University of Minnesota's Design of Medical Devices Conference in April 2014, Kohn recounted how Silicon Valley venture capitalist and technologist Vinod Khosla was raving about the AliveCor ECG device that can record his EKG and send the data to his physician.

"He told me that his iPhone [that has a device snapped on the back] can send his EKG to his doctor 100 times a day," Kohn said of a conversation with Khosla. "I said, 'So what?'"

On the AdvaMed panel there was an acknowledgment that the industry is still in its infancy in trying to understand and manage how the data is presented to doctors.

"There's too much data and doctors and nurses might not want to go through that," agreed Nersi Nazari, CEO of Vital Connect. "But we are at the sort of Ground Zero of a new data science."

Nazari added that researchers and others would be able to see patterns in the huge collections of data and make predictions for about people's health or be able to make a diagnosis, that will a major paradigm shift.

Arundhati Parmar is senior editor at MD+DI. Reach her at [email protected] and on Twitter @aparmarbb 

[Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com user wildpixel]

To learn more about medical devices and trends in the marketplace, attend the two-day MD&M Minneapolis conference, Nov. 4 and 5 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. 

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