By Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor
As health information technology becomes increasingly personal, predictive, and preventive, concerns have emerged about the responsible innovation of these devices. In response to the rapid growth of the personalized health industry and related concerns, the Vitality Institute, a health research organization, released a report on Guidelines for Personalized Health Technology at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in Las Vegas. The expressed goal of the guidelines is to ensure personalized health technologies strike a balance between function and form.
The 5 guidelines are as follows:
- Build health technologies informed by science
- Scale affordable health technologies
- Guide interpretation of health data
- Protect and secure health data
- Govern the responsible use of health technology and data
Guidelines and best practices are important as the concept of wearables moves away from just fitness trackers, such as FitBits and Nike FuelBands. Patients are often choosing to take a more proactive role in their health, and the market is responding to this. For example, consider the recent developments of continuous glucose monitoring and heart rhythm trackers.
Endeavoring to design health technologies with scientific and behavioral evidence, in addition to testing them with robust research methods, can help to promote a transparent and reliable marketplace. Consumers would be able to more clearly decide if the device is a good fit for them in terms of managing their health.
In particular, the guidelines suggest using research approaches such as A/B testing. Technology developers often use A/B testing to rapidly assess the impact of product- design modifications on user behavior. The impact of the change in design on behaviors in variants A and B can be compared over time to maximize health outcomes.
Integrating tested science into health technology would make the devices a surer bet for clinicians, who could prescribe the devices and receive a reimbursement. Providers could also use the information to avoid unneeded and costly medical interventions by helping to predict health decline for chronic conditions.
A study recently published in BMJ found that more than one-third of US adults are using the Internet to self-diagnose.1 Although many patients are attempting to more closely engage with their health, many others are also being told they must do a better job, while bearing the additional costs of new technologies. Ensuring that these technologies are affordable and accessible for patients can positively impact health predictors such as medication adherence and overall physical activity. The need for such guidelines stems from the impact health technologies already have on patients and the potential impact of these technologies as they continue to hit the marketplace.
The possibilities for better health using personalized health technologies appear endless, the report reads. Consumers can quantify their health remotely to motivate behavior changes, physicians can deliver precision medicine to their patients, and academics can expose variations in health behaviors among diverse populations.
Regardless of how and when health technologies become more closely regulated, health providers must remind patients that any medical advice gleaned from these sources should not be considered conclusive.
1. Semigran H, Linder J, Gidengil C, Mehrotra A. Evaluation of symptom checkers for self diagnosis and triage: audit study. BMJ. 2015;351:h3480.
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