Could choosing the right medical wearable device save some one's life? According to researchers from the Cleveland Clinic, who published their study in JAMA Cardiology, the right device could prevent deaths.
The researchers' goal was to measure how accurate wearable devices were when measuring a person's heart rate. To do so they studied the heart rates of 50 healthy adults when hooked up to an electrocardiogram and compared them to the results of the same adults when they were using the Apple Watch, Mio Alpha, Fitbit Charge HR and Basis Peak.
The results for all but the Apple Watch were slightly frightening, and show just how important it is for health providers to research the type of equipment they're using before purchasing it.
"There was significant disparity between the Apple Watch and competitors."
When people were resting, all of the heart rate monitors were fairly accurate. However, when a person was moving around, there was significant disparity between the Apple Watch and its competitors. Apple's wearable device was around 90 percent accurate, but the others' accuracy fell into the low 80s.
"What we really noticed was all of the devices did not do a bad job at rest for being accurate for their heart rate, but as the activity intensity went up, we saw more and more variability," Dr. Gordon Blackburn, an author of the study said, according to Time. "At the higher levels of activity, some of the wrist technology was not accurate at all."
The magazine reported that a spokesman for Fitbit claimed the app is intended for casual use, and does not necessarily cater to those in the medical community who need to make important medical decisions.
"Fitbit trackers are not intended to be medical devices. Unlike chest straps, wrist-based trackers fit comfortably into everyday life, providing continuous heart rate [monitoring] for up to several days without recharging (vs. a couple hours at a time) to give a much more informative picture of overall health and fitness trends," a Fitbit representative said.
This study is important for two reasons:
- It calls into question the accuracy of popular wearable devices, helping people make more informed decisions about how to track their health.
- It provides medical professionals with critical information that allows them to justify the accuracy of their data, if needed.
Wearable devices are becoming very popular in the U.S., but it's crucial that consumers don't become distracted by all the bells and whistles before buying. They must do their research beforehand to make sure the device they're purchasing will meet their expectations.