digital health tracking

At Health Tech Insider, we admit that we’re cheerleaders for the health and medical benefits of wearables and related technology. But just because we believe that these devices can save lives, improve the quality of life for individuals, and reduce healthcare costs doesn’t make it true. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for scientific research that shows clear evidence of these benefits are real. The studies are now coming too fast to cover them all, but we found one in particular that deserves attention.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine undertook an ambitious study. Starting with one healthy individual, they used over-the-counter consumer wearable devices to collect biometric data for two years. Over time, they added 42 more subjects to the study. All were in good health, without diabetes or chronic inflammatory conditions or major organ disease. Some subjects were defined as at risk for Type 2 diabetes. Subjects were monitored for an average of 152 days. When the study was complete, the researchers had gathered nearly 2 billion individual measurements.

Analysis of this data yielded valuable insights. The results showed circadian variations, as well as “striking” changes in different environmental settings. For example, airline flights resulted in a significant drop in blood oxygen levels. The data was useful in identifying early signs of Lyme disease and other inflammatory responses. The data also was able to detect physiological differences between subjects who were insulin-resistant and insulin-sensitive. In short, the data was effective at creating individual baseline profiles that were useful in early detection of the onset of illness, and provide insights that could make treatment more effective.

Our healthcare systems are shifting from reacting to symptoms of illness, to a more proactive management of individual health. Clearly, data from wearable devices can provide valuable insights and early detection that can make this strategy more effective and save money.