Will Wearables Upset the Applecart?

Where are you with wearable devices? Sporting an Apple Watch or a Fitbit right now? When was the last time you looked at it? When patients ask you about a new device they saw on the internet, do you do some intel? How do you respond when they tell you about patterns they’re seeing in their own heart rhythms, courtesy of a device on their wrist? When your patients ask if they can email their heart recordings to you, what do you say?

As important, what do you think about requests like these? “How will I find the time to look at the data? Who is going to pay me for still more after-hours work? What’s the point of indulging a trend that may very well be gone tomorrow? How long before this patient quits the device, or buys into another platform? What will we do with all the data?”

For this summer’s roundtable, we teamed up with Mintu Turakhia, MD, MAS, co-principal investigator of the Apple Heart Study, to pose questions like these to cardiologists who are thinking hard about wearables and coming to conclusions that may surprise you. And then we interviewed an electrophysiologist who has gone all-in on wearables; he explains why he’s a believer and how he’s making the devices fit into his practice’s clinical workflow and billing process.

These six cardiologists cover a lot of territory—from the philosophical to the practical. For me, the main take-home message is that patients want these devices. We want the insights, control and peace of mind that these devices might be able provide around our own health, an area that so often feels out of our control. From counting calories and steps to convincing Mom to wear an alert bracelet in case she falls, wearable devices have the potential to inform and reassure. It’s empowering to be able to show your doctor what your heart was doing when you felt symptoms or did certain activities. For some patients, it could be the difference between feeling like the passive recipient of a doctor’s care and an active partner in their own care.

Do today’s devices really work? Will they fulfill our expectations? Will they drive our doctors crazy? So many questions!

Maybe today’s devices aren’t there yet. Maybe they’re just another disruptor coming out of the tech industry and threatening to upset the healthcare applecart. Or maybe they’re the natural step up from implantable devices, a bright apple amidst a bushel of fruit, some of it bruised. Maybe you should pick up the shiny one and take a bite.

Let me know how it goes at kbdavid@cardiovascularbusiness.com.