One if the promises of wearable health tech devices is that additional data can result in better outcomes for patients. This could be from managing treatment more effectively, or by motivating patients to make behavior changes that can improve their health.

Researchers from the University of Utah School of Medicine‘s Divisions of Cardiovascular Medicine and Internal Medicine led a nationwide study of the impact of smartwatches and other wearable devices. The study focused on whether wearables users with atrial fibrillation (AF) use more health care resources than patients who do not use wearables. The team published a report of the study results In the JAMA Network Open journal.

The study analyzed data for 16,320 patients with AF from the University of Utah Health enterprise data warehouse (EDW). After identifying 348 patients who used wearables and 15,972 who did not use wearables, the researchers used propensity matching to create matched sets of 1-to-4 patients with similar demographics and AF characteristics who did and did not use wearables. After propensity matching the study groups included 125 patients who used wearables and 500 patients who did not. The study included 90 days of patient follow-up.

Data analysis of the Utah study matched sets found no significant difference in average pulse rate between the wearable users and non-users. There was, however a significantly higher rate of health care use among the wearable users than the non-users. The rate of health care use was even higher for patients who had ablation procedures. The study authors concluded that while wearable use did not result in changed pulse rates, the data did suggest that wearables have potential use in longitudinal care and management of AF patients. The researchers noted that most wearables users were diagnosed with AF prior to using the wearables, which indicates the wearables were not used for screening or diagnosis, but for self-management.

This study is important because it supports the usefulness of wearables in patient populations. In addition, the authors point out the integration wearables data with electronic medical records could produce comprehensive health outcome data and provide new means to monitor treatment outcomes.