Is Health Data from Wearable Fitness Trackers and Health Apps Being Incorporated into Electronic Medical Records?

Practice Fusion
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Every week Practice Fusion conducts a simple survey, called “Feedback Friday,” with a sample of their 112,000 medical professional users.

To ensure that an adequate response rate is achieved Practice Fusion mandates brevity for these weekly polls. They are limited to a single sentence with response options being limited to a “yes” or “no.”

Zina Moukheiber, a Forbes contributor, recently posed her own question to a sample of 20,000 Practice Fusion doctors: “Have your patients asked you about incorporating their health data from either their wearable fitness trackers (like Fitbit or Jawbone UP) or from their health apps (like Apple’s HealthKit) into their health records?” The mini survey elicited 353 responses in two days.

The reported responses were not surprising. 85% of doctors said “no.”

As a health IT professional and a bit of a gadget/app geek, I admittedly have not asked my medical doctor to integrate any of my wearable, or health app data into my electronic health record. I am fairly sure that my doctor does not have time to see this data. He’s the busiest guy in the world, and even when I feel like I’m dying of some bug, he’ll typically give me a quick check-up, make an assessment, and then send me on my way within minutes.

Frankly, I’m not sure how he would respond if I showed up in his office with my laptop and a USB device in tow. For me, my clinical visits are purpose-driven. There isn’t a lot of time for chit-chat about how to enhance my medical record. Maybe someday usability on EHRs will improve to the point where doctors have an extra five minutes at the tail end of an appointment, but based on what we’re hearing from our members on AmericanEHR, this is not happening very often right now.

On the flip side, I have worked closely with a personal trainer/naturopathic doctor, as part of my training for Ironman (I’ve completed three to date). In my case I worked with Dr. Ryan Oughtred, a former alpine world cup skier, who put me on a regime that mixed sports medicine, physical fitness, and naturopathy as part of what he calls preventative, or pro-active medicine. This approach included conducting in-person assessments such as lactate testing, blood work, AND reviewing data from my health apps and tracking devices.

In terms of sharing data, I was initially using Nike+, and I loved the usability of the web interface, the community challenges that you could participate in with other users, and the achievements I could earn for meeting goals. I did a CSV export of my data and sent it over to Dr. Oughtred for analysis. The data was pretty neat, but we soon realized it wasn’t very deep and the Nike+ platform also lacked the ability to track multidisciplinary sports like triathlon.

After some research I ended up switching over to Training Peaks, a platform of choice for many professional athletes. The whole program is built to share data between an athlete and their coaches. I then got a Timex Global Trainer and a ANT+ heart rate monitor to ramp up my data collection, whether I was swimming, biking or running. This easy to use platform made it much easier for Dr. Oughtred and I to review my data collaboratively—he could log in independently using his email address, and look at detailed summaries of my workouts with heart rate, pace, distance, elevation, GPS plotted maps, etc. After sharing data with Ryan I was able to get some really great advice on my training, which included a bespoke plan with more intervals and strength work to break-up the long endurance miles I was tracking. I really enjoyed having a professional provide their insights on my health data.

Having a dual practitioner/patient log-in to share wearable and health app data is the key to success. Doctors are too busy to fumble around with data that may come in a mismash of different formats. Apps and devices won’t get very far in a clinical setting unless they recognize the need for fast, simple and secure solutions.

There will always be early adopters and people like me who will seek out collaboration on their health data due to special needs (in my case the impetus was ensuring that I was best prepared for Ironman competitions). But to see data from wearables and health apps adopted by physicians on a mass scale it will also need to be extremely simple to integrate with their EHR or some other form of practice management tool.

Is Health Data from Wearable Fitness Trackers and Health Apps Being Incorporated into Electronic Medical Records?