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Aggregate Fitness Tracker Data is More Valuable than Individual Results?

A recent New York Times article made an interesting conclusion about the value of fitness tracker data:

Ultimately, it is those aggregate numbers that offer the most exciting possibilities: The collective data stream from our devices amounts to by far the largest and most comprehensive observational health trial ever conducted. We have the data; now we just need to figure out what it means.

As a preface to this discussion, it’s worth letting you take a minute to read my article about the clinical relevance of FitBit data (or lack thereof). For those who don’t click over, I argue that doctors don’t care about FitBit (and other Fitness Tracker) data because it’s not clinically relevant. However, new sensors are on their way that will be clinically relevant.

While I fundamentally believe that current FitBit data isn’t that interesting to the individual, it’s worth considering if the aggregate FitBit data is going to provide some clinical and health insights. My reaction is that the aggregate FitBit data is likely to provide a much larger benefit than the individual data. Although, that’s not saying too much since I just said that I didn’t think it was that clinically relevant for an individual.

I do think the aggregate data will tell an interesting story about the population as a whole. If we get enough data (and this will likely require all fitness tracking companies to work together), then we could look at some interesting trends that happen across various regions and shifts in activity over time.

One of the big complaints about value based reimbursement efforts is that there’s no baseline that will allow a doctor to say that their patient population is sicker than another doctor’s population. However, under this new model, we’re planning to reimburse them based on how well they keep the population healthy. We can all see how this isn’t fair and could lead to doctors only working with the most healthy patients.

Could a baseline of personal health tracking data (yes, it will likely need to be more than just step trackers) allow us to understand in a really detailed way the health or sickness of a physician’s patient population?

Yes, this all gets quite messy very quickly. However, it also gets quite exciting. Could enough data help us understand what doctors have said for years, “My patients are more sick!”? I think it could. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than what we have today.

Of course, the solutions to actually improving the health of patients is a whole other challenge. However, understanding the health of a population as compared to other populations and how their health changes over time is going to be very valuable to the future of healthcare as we know it.

March 30, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

HIMSS 2016 Moved from Mobility to Devices

Thinking back on a week at the HIMSS Annual Conference, I think it’s fair to say that the industry has moved beyond the smart phone and moved on to new devices. That’s not to say that mobile doesn’t matter, but mobility has just become a feature of most software the same way we talk about a cloud application. No one buys cloud, but they might look at whether the application is a cloud application. The same is true for mobility. You don’t buy mobility, but you might want to know if the application is available on mobile devices.

With that said, there are still many that use the term mobile health to describe any devices that could be used in your health. That’s a pretty broad definition since it could include apps on your smartphone, the watch on your wrist, the Fitbit in your pocket, or some other sort of sensor attached to your body in some way. This leaves off ingestibles and implantables which I guess could apply to this broad definition of mobile health as well.

I believe 2016 was a breakout year for consumer health device companies at HIMSS. While in previous years I might see a number of these consumer health device companies at CES, very few of them really had any presence at HIMSS. HIMSS 2016 had a lot of these device manufacturers with much larger presences. This includes large companies like Philips (who killed it on the #HIMSS16 hashtag) and Qualcomm (of course they acquired CapsuleTech which has always had a good presence at HIMSS), but also a large smattering of smaller device companies scattered throughout the HIMSS 2016 exhibit hall floor.

I can’t say that I saw anything new from these companies, but HIMSS isn’t really the place for them to launch new products. Most of these companies save product launches for other events like CES or Mobile World Congress. Instead, their presence at HIMSS shows an interesting evolution in the journey of these generally consumer focused health devices. HIMSS is about the healthcare enterprise. What’s still not clear to me is how many of these consumer health devices can find a foothold in the enterprise healthcare world. However, it’s notable that so many are trying.

March 9, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The Fitness Wearable Nobody Knows About

I ran across a great article from Techcrunch that looked at the top 3 wearable vendors and they pointed out that most of us have probably never heard of the #3 wearable on that list. For those following along at home, the top 3 are Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Xiamoi Mi Band.

Everyone in the US has heard about Fitbit and the Apple Watch. However, my guess is that few in the US know about the Xiaomi Mi Band since 97% of its sales are in China. Here’s a look at the breakdown of wearable market share per the Techcrunch article linked above:

According to IDC, market leader Fitbit shipped 4.7 million wearable units in the third quarter, taking a 22.2 percent market share. Apple shipped 3.9 million units, for a 18.6 percent market share, while Xiaomi shipped 3.7 million units, or 17.4 percent of the market.

For all intents and purposes, the Xiaomi product line is very similar to the Fitbit product line. Some might even call it a knock off. The Mi Band originally started with steps, hours of sleep, and calories burned. Now the Mi Band Pulse also does heart rate. Have we heard this story before?

It’s really easy in our US centric minds to forget about what else is happening around the world. That’s particularly true of China which is one of the fastest growing wearable markets out there. I saw that first hand when I met all these Chinese digital health companies at CES. What will be interesting to watch is if and when some of these successful Chinese companies come to the US. We’ll see how they do.

January 27, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Fitbit Lawsuit and Lumosity Settlement Shine Important Light on Making Health Claims

2 big announcements came out around CES that shined a light on all the pomp and circumstance that you hear at a show like CES and the Digital Health Summit. The first was Lumosity’s $2 million in refunds to settle Federal charges with the FTC for deceptive marketing practices.

The FTC commented:

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

Lumosity commented:

The company said in a statement that the FTC’s charges and the resulting settlement stem from “marketing language that has been discontinued” and that the company’s focus “has not and will not change.”

In related news was the lawsuit against Fitbit’s wrist activity tracker and its ability to track heart rates. Here’s an excerpt as reported by CBS (or you can read the full complaint):

The lawsuit filed in federal court this week claims that the wrist-based activity tracker is consistently misrecording users’ heart rates by a “very significant margin.” It also takes aim at Fitbit commercials with slogans like “Every Beat Counts” and “Know Your Heart.”

“Far from ‘counting every beat,’ the PurePulse Trackers do not and cannot consistently and accurately record wearers’ heart rates during the intense physical activity for which Fitbit expressly markets them,” the lawsuit states.

Here’s Fitbit’s response:

Fitbit stands behind our heart rate technology and strongly disagrees with the statements made in the complaint and plans to vigorously defend the lawsuit.

Some of you might have read my article where I wrote that Fitbit’s data isn’t clinically relevant. The challenge is that they give the impression that it is clinically relevant. It’s a fine line you walk when you don’t want to take the time and spend the money to do the clinical studies and FDA clearance that’s needed to make clinical claims. Anecdotal results isn’t enough. Plus, the media can take and make whatever claims they want even if you are very careful with your words.

This discussion is going to become really important as clinically relevant devices that have gone through the clinical studies and can make the claims start to hit the market. It just takes years for these studies to see the light of day. Many would argue that it’s not fast enough. They’re right. It takes forever, but you’re walking a fine line in the claims you make while you wait for the results to be published.

While we wait, Doctors will continue to use and share these various digital health solutions and offer their first hand experience using the products. It’s just a really hard balancing act when the company starts to promote these stories.

Watch for this discussion to really come into focus in 2016. Count on legislation which clarifies what’s acceptable and what’s not as well.

January 13, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

How Many Wearable Devices Were Sold for Christmas 2015?

I searched high and low for this number and couldn’t find it. The best I could find is that no one really knows how many devices were sold. Everyone just knew that a lot of them were sold.

Fitbit has put out numbers that it sold almost 11 million Fitbits in 2014 and 21 million Fitbits (Data as of 5/7/15) since their launch. Word on the street was that Fitbit sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday were slow for Fitbit, but that it’s picked up since then. Maybe that’s the new Amazon mentality kicking in since Amazon Prime only takes 2 days to deliver your item. In fact, they clearly tell you when the package is going to arrive. So, procrastinators like me know exactly how long they can delay in buying their gifts.

No matter the specific number, you can be sure that a huge number of wearable devices like the Fitbit are going to hit the market. Although, even more interesting than the Fitbit to me is all of the smart watches that include Fitbit like functionality. I think I have 2 Fitbits at home in a drawer somewhere. However, people that where a watch often do it every day.

Even more interesting is the cell phone in the pocket. That’s one of the only, “go back and get it” items in our life now. So, we literally always have it. I honestly don’t feel safe driving without mine now. Although, I shouldn’t be concerned since anyone who stops is going to have one I could use (of course that assumes that I remember any cell phone numbers to call for help). You can be sure there are going to be a lot of cell phones under the tree this Christmas as well. That’s a whole suite of medical smart phones that will be available for health care.

December 23, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Wearables Explosion at CES 2015

Each year I’ve been impressed by the growth of Digital Health at CES. However, this year has blown me away far more than any year before. In previous years, the health presence was so small that it was almost indistinguishable. In fact, it was so small that it was really easy for it to double and triple in size. Now that it’s gotten much bigger, it’s still doubling in size and the impact is even greater.

The space for Digital Health takes up a very large portion of the Sands Convention Center (Venetian Hotel) this year and that’s saying something for how large it’s really become. Plus, many of the booths were massive in scale. That’s not something we’d really seen at previous CES conferences in the Digital Health space.

Here’s one example of the massive iFit booth:
Wearable Fitness Booth at CES 2015

Yes, there’s basically a full stage for their booth with half a dozen people dancing and working out at their booth. Plus, after the dance performance, they are paying other models (I guess that’s what you’d call them) to work out on the equipment as well. It was quite the spectacle and the picture barely does it justice. (UPDATE: You can also check out this video of the Digital Health space at CES I did.)

In my initial CES Observations post on EMR and HIPAA, I commented on the number of new wearables, the beginning of ambient sensors with wearables, and the variety of new “jewelry” like wearables. Yes, there was a Swarovski jewelry booth right next to the Misfit booth.

On the other side of the equation were booth like the HP Matters booth:
HP Healthcare Booth at CES 2015

They had three images which talk about Healthcare in a Box (telemedicine), Data Analytics is Not Just a Buzzword, and Medical 3D Printing Comes of Age. I’m not sure how many people would have thought HP for any of these three areas.

I also found it really great that CES put the Health & Wellness, Digital Health and Fitness, Robotics, and 3D printing areas all right next to each other. No doubt there are a bunch of interesting robotic and 3D printing applications for healthcare.

While I’ve started to see a maturing of the devices and sensors at CES, I’m still waiting for a breakthrough company that does something powerful with all of this new found data. There are still a few edge cases where a Fitbit will help you lose weight by just encouraging you to reach a 10k step goal. Or the calorie counting app which makes you more aware of the food you’re eating. Those have their place in the current ecosystem, but that’s not really leveraging the data into a seamless change for people’s lives. In many ways, we needed all these sensors to mature to the point that we can innovate on top of all that data. Hopefully we’ll see more of it next year.

I did see one partial example of that this year. Fitbug has put together these Kiqplan programs. They’re essentially 12 week programs that try and address real problems that people are trying to solve: Slim + Trim, Beer Belly Blaster, Healthy Baby Bump, and Goodbye Baby Bump. In many ways this is just packaging, but I believe we need this type of packaging in order to attract people to using it. No doubt this is a simple first evolution, but I’d like to see where it goes.

No doubt wearables that relate to health and fitness have exploded at CES. However, I think we’re still just at the very beginning of seeing the amazing results from these wearable devices. The foundation is laid. Now we need to put up some walls and make it look nice.

January 8, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Apple Watch and Other Apple News

Yesterday you probably heard that Apple came out with the new iPhone 6, Apple Pay, and the new Apple Watch. The iPhone 6 wasn’t terribly exciting. They have some new form factors that are similar to what Samsung’s been doing with the Android and will be a pain for developers who have to deal with multiple form factors. The iPhone 6 also has a bunch more storage.

Apple Pay is an interesting announcement since it has the chance to really change the way we pay for things. I’m still torn on how retailers and consumers will adopt the technology, but it’s a big bet and could really revolutionize the way we buy things. Our phone literally could become our credit card like many have envisioned for a long time. Of course, the recent iCloud leaked celebrity nude photos was bad timing for the announcement that Apple wants you to use your iPhone as your credit card. In reality, they are two very different security issues, but for the consumer that will get lost in the discussion.

The bigger news from a health standpoint is the Apple Watch (they chose not to go with the iWatch name). As you’d expect from Apple, the design is beautiful and well thought out. They’ve added a scroll wheel on the side to do things like zoom and also can be pressed to go to the home screen. Hard to say how functional this feature really will be until we get a chance to try it.

The Apple Watch does have some health features, but it basically feels like a Fitbit, Fuelband (discontinuted), or Jawbone on your arm. It does have a heart rate sensor and accelerometor. I thought they’d probably announce more health features. So, that was a disappointment. Maybe they are working on other health features, but they didn’t announce them. The Apple Watch doesn’t come out until early 2015 and will have a $349 price point.

I expect that many will buy the Apple Watch, but they’ll do it more for the status of the watch than the functionality. The smartwatch space hasn’t done all that great. Will the Apple Watch change that dynamic? It doesn’t feel like enough for me to want to go back to wearing a watch. Apple is leading with style and so they’ll get some uptake, but I’d like to see a little more substance.

September 10, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

FitBit Makes You Gain Weight

How’s that for a headline? That’s the story that caught my eye on this NBC – Today show article that talks about the Fitbit, Jawbone Up and Nike Fuelband tracking technology and its impact on people’s weight. First, it’s worth noting that the Today show is talking about fitness trackers. That’s a great sign of the mainstream appeal of these fitness trackers. Although, I guess we have to ask if it’s a fad.

However, back to the original part of the story. Does the FitBit make you gain weight? Obviously, a medical device doesn’t make you gain weight or make you lose weight. However, the information it offers you can influence the choices you make. The article talks about how one person compared the estimated calories burn vs the estimated calories eaten and there was a disconnect with what was happening with their body. According to the fitbit, they were burning a lot more calories than they were taking in, but they were still gaining weight.

What this highlights to me is something most of us have known forever. Weight loss is really hard and is a much more complicated problem than we want it to be. It’s simple to say that it should just be a mathematical equation of calories in and calories burned, but it’s not that simple. People’s metabolism matters. The type of calories you eat matters. I could keep going, but you get the point.

We should of course know this since the weight loss industry has to be a trillion dollar industry. People will spend hordes of money losing weight. Unfortunately, much of that money is spent on things that don’t get results. However, it’s worth noting that it’s not often the devices fault as much as the user error (or lack of user use).

Let’s also be clear that we’re still really early on in the fitness tracker and other wearable sensor technology evolution. Five more years from now I think the sensors and algorithms will be so much better than today. Although, I might be most hopeful that people will find some amazing psychological solutions that really change people’s behavior for good. The potential is there to make an enormous difference in so many people’s lives.

August 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Fitbit Force Sales Stopped and Voluntary Recall Begins

The CEO of Fitbit has announced that they have stopped sales of the Fitbit Force and offered a voluntary recall. If you have a Fitbit Force and would like to get a refund, they have set up a dedicated page on their website or call 888-656-6381.

Here’s a comment from the CEO about the reason for the recall:

Late last year, we began selling Fitbit Force, our most advanced activity tracker. Recently, some Force users have reported skin irritation. While only 1.7% of Force users have reported any type of skin irritation, we care about every one of our customers. On behalf of the entire Fitbit team, I want to apologize to anyone affected.

Of course, we know the difference in number between people who report problems and those that have them is very different. It is interesting that their test results show that users are likely experiencing allergic contact dermatitis.

When you think about a watch based product like this, you’d think that the science of materials for watches would be solid. It seems really odd to me that Fitbit and their pile of investor dollars didn’t tap into this science to avoid an issue like this.

The timing for this is also interesting with so many people touting the Fitbit Force as their giveaway at HIMSS 2014. Well, I guess winners now have an easy way to cash it in for $130 if they want as opposed to heading to eBay.

James Park, Fitbit CEO, does note that they’re working on their next generation tracker. I won’t be surprised if the Fitbit Force brand never sees the light of day again. I’m pretty sure they’ll want to take the lessons learned and move forward and put the Force behind them.

February 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Fitness Tracker Apps Ranked

Time recently ranked the various Fitness trackers. I can never resist a list, so I thought I’d share their list. They offer some more commentary on their list, but I think the totality of the list itself is the most interesting thing. Look how many fitness tracker options there are out there.

26. Polar Electro Wearlink + Transmitter with Bluetooth

25. Under Armour Armour39

24. Sigma Sport R1

23. Scosche Rhythm

22. Adidas Pacer Bundle

21. Polar Electro H7

20. Polar Electro H6

19. Polar Electro Stride Sensor

18. Iqua Beat

17. BodyMedia FIT Link

16. Fitbit Zip

15. LifeTrak Move C300

14. SYNC Burn

13. Jawbone Up24

12. BodyMedia FIT Core

11. Striiv Play

10. Nike Fuelband

9. Nike Fuelband SE

8. Jawbone UP

7. Lark Life

6. Fitbit Flex

5. Withings Pulse

4. Misfit Wearables Shine

3. Basis B1

2. Fitbit One

1. Fitbit Force

January 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.