Dell's chief doc sees little value in patients' wearable data without context, analysis

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Doctors find little value in the way fitness activity data from patients’ wearable devices is presented to them now.

In fact, far from improving patient care, the data deluge makes doctors feel “overwhelmed” and prevents them from getting key, helpful information, according to Dr. Nick van Terheyden, the recently appointed chief medical officer at Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences.

“Do I care that you took 10,000 steps today? Not really,” van Terheyden said.

The fitness and wellness tracking capabilities of wearables have been promoted as a way for people to improve their health. In theory, doctors could use fitness tracker data to diagnose an ailment before a patient becomes seriously ill. Overall, data from patient’s wearable devices can lead to personalized health care and outcomes that rival those offered by medication, he said.

But that data must be placed within the context of a person’s overall health. For example, a marked drop in the number of steps a person took over a certain time period could indicate the onset of arthritis, he said.

Another key element are data analysis tools, an area in which Dell’s cloud computing technology can help by processing wearable data and noting trends when the information differs from normal patterns. With this insight, patients could make changes to improve their health or doctors could intervene and take action.

It’s also important for fitness trackers, smartwatches and other wearables to be interactive and keep users engaged, van Terheyden said. If not, the devices end up in a drawer.

For example, people will be more inclined to continue using a wearable that offers them tools to make decision based on the data, he said.

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