Using Wearables With Patients

body tracking devices, body trackers, jawbone up

credit: Flickr

We recently asked our physicians how they felt about wearables.  The small devices that we wear on our bodies that track our every motion, providing a lot of data that could be beneficial for patient care.

Here are the results.

Question:  Do you use or have you recommended a body/activity tracking system to patients?  (500 physicians answered our poll)

55%    No, not familiar with these

24%    No, but I’ve heard they’re really cool

16%    Yes, Fitbit

3%      Yes, UP (by Jawbone)

2%      Yes, BodyBugg

Overall, a total of 21% of physicians have either used or recommended body-tracking devices.  Interestingly 25% of Cardiologists report using or recommending them and Internists were at 27%.

We’ve come a long way from a simple pedometer.  The technology these days is truly trailblazing, everything from motion sensors, altimeters, even beams of light that can detect pulse are being packed into devices for us to wear.  Below is a quick guide …

Wrist:  Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Nike Fuel all sit on the wrist as a bracelet and track every motion.  Many also have the ability to track sleep and can let you know how much REM sleep you’ve gotten.

Wrist w/pulse:  MyBasis has a tightly fitting watch that tracks heart rate patterns, motion, perspiration and skin temperature throughout the day for a more accurate picture of what your body is doing.

Waistband:  FitBit is the king right now of the waistband crowd (although they just introduced a wrist version).  Same basic tracking but it tucks inside your waistband so you don’t have to advertise what you’re doing.

Armband and other areas:  Devices like the BodyBugg sit on the upper arm instead of the wrist or waistband.  There are also several devices just launched or in development phase which have sensors built into clothing.

These devices track sleep patterns and movement throughout the day and most of them also have a robust meal diary so people can track calories in vs. calories out.  For many of the devices, like the Jawbone UP, you can share data with multiple people, a great way for physicians to keep an eye on their patients and if they’re following healthy living guidelines.

Application for Patients

Doctors always wonder what their patients actually do after being told to “lose weight” or “eat healthier.”  Well, with devices like this and access by medical staff to their patients’ logs you can get a pretty detailed picture.  The idea that their “doctor is watching” might be enough to motivate people to make permanent healthy changes.

The flip side is the information can be pretty overwhelming.  Logging food can be a daunting task and people are notorious for under-reporting what they eat.  A patient might get overwhelmed by all the charts and graphs and just throw their hands up and walk away.

Still, for a price point of between $100 and $200 you could be enabling your patients to make real and necessary changes to improved health.  Do you think it’s worth it for your practice?  Leave a comment below or if you’re an M.D. or D.O. feel free to join the conversation inside Sermo.


  1. viola says

    I think this is good for people with heart problems so the doctor can see what your heart is doing by moving around or at rest or sleep.

  2. lisajohnsonboston says

    We think it would also be great for people with sleep disturbances, a relatively inexpensive way to track people’s sleep patterns.

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