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Out and about with your smart watch: will doctors be interested in your data if you become ill?

This is my one of my favourite places on the planet: Abersoch beach - an hour from where I live: Always beautiful - whatever the weather. Bear Grylls lives allegedly on the little island on the left - not that we have met yet.

So imagine that after a day out and about you are starting to feel unwell and you are admitted to hospital. You are wearing a smart watch or fit-bit that has recorded your heart rate, movements and oxygen saturations. You literally have the future of healthcare on your wrist: Acute illness is associated with a change in vital signs. Is someone becomes unwell usually the heart rate rises, oxygen saturations might drop and movement patterns change. This data will tell you how serious your illness is. The more abnormal the vital sign measurements are, the more you might want to be worried.

Given the millions of wearable devices on the wellness and fitness marked and the recent CE markings you could reasonable expect that the first thing that the nurse or doctor on the hospital front door would do would be to ask for the recordings of your device. And you might expect that there are national protocols on how to use this type of data?

You are wrong !

It is likely that nobody will ask you for your data. Additionally there is virtually no published studies on usage of patient held vital sign data in the risk-assessment and management of medical emergencies. We got interested in the topic earlier on last year and driven by a tireless medical student, Muhammad Hamza, who was unable to complete his attachment on our unit reviewed the literature. There was a sudden dramatic interest in vital sign recordings at home. COVID-19 created a whole industry of home monitoring services and smart mHealth applications. Based on exactly no data.

In our scoping review we found a selection of studies of tele-health services that used vital sign recordings in a number of chronic conditions. But while many papers measured the rate of hospital admissions we could find no meaningful evidence on whether clinicians used the treasure trove of data to review the degree of abnormalities, trends and previous events to determine the need for hospital admission and future monitoring.

This causes yet more questions about who own and acts on data? More food for thought for our symposium on Patient Powered Safety on the 21st of May.

I hope you can help us with the debate!

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