The Consumer’s Desires vs. Health Needs: The Problem with Health IT?

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Person looking at their smart watchAs the healthcare industry shifts its focus from reactive procedures and diagnoses to preventative measures, patients are becoming more involved in discussions and activities surrounding their wellness. Consumers desire technology that can help them monitor and track their health, but gadgets need to do more than simply provide data. Without connectivity between health gadgets and medical practitioners, tech toys are just toys.

Tracking Gadgets Provide Data, But What Does It Mean?

If you walk into your local electronics store, you’ll see a plethora of healthcare gadgets on the shelf. There are devices that track steps, sleep, and heart rate. While trackers like the Fitbit, Jawbone Up, and Withings Pulse provide instant feedback on daily activity, they do not communicate data to their user’s physician.

A person new to a fitness program needs a discussion with a medical professional to ensure that they’re pacing themselves properly. Without that consultation, a fledgling exerciser has no baseline, which means their initial goals and expectations may be so far out of line as to be unrealistic and discouraging. If fitness-tracking gadgets were better at syncing with patient records, those fitness programs would become a quality collaboration between doctor and patient and, by doing so, greatly benefit the patient.

Many Gadgets Have the Same Flaw

People who own some of the devices mentioned above have all used similar performance tracking products. Social functionality is enabled that allows the user to track their behavior across platforms and devices. Friends can also be induced to participate, ostensibly to create an amiable competition. Once the user sees that their friend has performed a great deal of exercise, they will be challenged to match the result.

The problem with such behavior is that people are not equals with regards to physical well-being. An exercise routine that works for one person may prove damaging to another. Keeping up with the Joneses is ill-advised, as workouts are intended to be performance-based. Just because your friend can run five miles in a half hour does not mean that you should try to match their pace. In fact, it can be detrimental, thereby defeating the ostensible goal of exercise, which is improving one’s health.

Gadgets Fail to Meet Specific Healthcare Needs

Do you use a device that tracks step? That’s fantastic, and you are to be commended for trying to stay in shape. The accepted guideline for walking is to aim for 10,000 steps a day. What does that mean with regards to specific health benefits though? The answer is that it has no direct correlation to improved quality of life. Yes, there is a nuanced enhancement in that you are getting more exercise, but simply counting steps is no more useful to your overall well-being than having a daily vitamin.

A better approach is to ask your doctor to construct a specific workout regiment that will directly address your current areas in need of improvement. Then, find a gadget or app specifically designed to track that data and interact with your doctor on how best to proceed. Marrying the new technologies available with the wisdom and experience of your healthcare professional will go a long way in making you healthier.

While buying new tech gadgets is a tempting way to convince yourself that you are addressing your healthcare needs, the reality is that they are only a partial solution. Your doctor has access to your medical records and hard-earned understanding of how the human body works. Use their knowledge in combination with gadgets to address your unmet healthcare needs.

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