Track­ers can spot clues be­fore you feel sick

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Are you about to get sick? Your ac­tiv­ity tracker might be able to help pro­vide the an­swer.

Re­searchers from the Stan­ford Univer­sity School of Medicine in Cal­i­for­nia re­cently com­piled nearly 2 bil­lion mea­sure­ments from 60 study par­tic­i­pants, grab­bing more than 250,000 mea­sure­ments of health a day for two years.

Par­tic­i­pants wore as few as one and as many as seven track­ers for the study, pub­lished re­cently in PLOS Bi­ol­ogy. This in­for­ma­tion al­lowed the re­searchers to track weight, heart rate, oxy­gen in the blood, skin tem­per­a­ture, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, calo­rie ex­pen­di­ture and even ex­po­sure to gamma rays and X-rays in the hopes of catch­ing signs of ill­ness be­fore the wearer felt symp­toms.

The de­vices used for the study are com­mer­cially avail­able. The re­searchers said the study demon­strated that it is pos­si­ble to de­fine a base­line of health that is spe­cific to an in­di­vid­ual, and from there gain bet­ter in­sight into when peo­ple de­vi­ate from those norms. The re­searchers hope that hav­ing such a de­tailed per­son­al­ized health pro­file can as­sist physi­cians with treat­ment and di­ag­no­sis.

Se­nior study author Michael Sny­der wit­nessed first­hand the pos­i­tive ef­fects of this method of health mon­i­tor­ing. While wear­ing seven biosen­sors dur­ing a flight to Nor­way he no­ticed his heart rate and blood-oxy­gen lev­els were ab­nor­mal. Soon there­after he de­vel­oped a fever. A later visit to a doc­tor in Nor­way re­vealed he had Lyme disease.

“Wear­ables helped make the ini­tial di­ag­no­sis,” Sny­der said in a news re­lease.

As of July 2015 there were more than 500 health­care-re­lated wear­able de­vices avail­able on the mar­ket, and over 34.3 mil­lion de­vices have been sold. That is triple the num­ber sold in 2013.

“We have more sen­sors on our cars than we have on hu­man be­ings,” Sny­der said, but he ex­pects the sit­u­a­tion will re­verse in the fu­ture.

The Moves app, which tracks ac­tiv­ity, was one of the sen­sors used in the study.

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