Saturday, July 9, 2016

Wearable personal monitoring apps and devices… if not used to develop actionable information, what good are they?
There are as many viewpoints on this issue as there are people utilizing the devices… many are actually using them to improve performance. For example, a runner might use a device to not only time a training run, but to manage her heart rate during wind-sprints and track the data with an eye to reducing heart rate while increasing speed over the training period.
My Samsung device monitors my activity by the hour, alarming me to get up and move if I am inactive for the previous 60 minutes. The goal here is to allow circulation of oxygenated blood to the extremity muscles and allow your heart to pace up, your lungs to expel gases, your organs to remove toxins and so on… all good. Later in life this helps avoid leg cramps and poor circulation.
Sleep monitoring is interesting, as well… My Band from Microsoft lets me know my sleep habits. When normally I get my 8+ hours of sleep it tells me that my early sleep was not of high quality… not Stage 3 SWS or REM so to speak (the former helps the body regenerate and the latter, regenerates and organizes the brain and memory). Then it comments that among other things, having an alcohol drink in the hours before going to sleep will disturb several hours, until that toxin is run through the liver and kidneys enough to get it out of the blood stream… then in fact, the better Stages III and IV, and REM occur. When I don’t have a drink for a few evenings, sure enough, sweet dreams early in the rest period. I suppose this is actionable monitoring in which I should participate… hmmm, do drink or not to drink alcohol before bed?
So, in some ways, wearable devices can be useful… but only if we take action, based on the information they are developing. Much of that information has to be trended in order to be useful. If the app doesn’t trend the data, or we don’t record it manually, it usually is useless. As well, if one is going to use it with weekly interfaces with a coach, or with a visit to a physician, it is a must to have trended data… allowing us to know if we are getting better, getting worse… is the new normal being too high or low…
Recently my blood pressure which I have been trending for over three years started to trend higher. My resting heart rate had also begun trending higher, from rest rates around 45 up to 60 and BP moving to 135/90 from 110/70. The trending wasn’t constant when looking at a daily plotting.
I had a cardiac check-up scheduled, so I took my data with me… I had a suspicion that my new work and all the flying I was doing had something to do with it, so I also plotted my flight schedules against the trend lines. Sure enough the daily increases in BP and HR a couple of days following extended flights were significant… and causing the trailing averages to go up. A new medication and pressure stockings for flights put everything back to my target pressures on average and daily… that’s action based on a wearable. When I stop flying for work again, I will return to the past meds and tactics.

If we are not using the information, why have it… I suppose my Microsoft Band or Samsung Gear II look cool… but not as cool as keeping things in a healthful status. It is something that we should work on… how to put all this information to use. There are Bluetooth weight scales, blood pressure and heart rate cuffs, pulse
oximetry, and ec(k)g t-shirts that are simple, cheap and useful in allowing us to better inform our caregivers about our healthfulness. You can input things like coffee and calorie consumption, exercise calories burned, sleep data and so on… again, all useful for when we become symptomatic… or even before if the physician knows how to interpret the data. We should put them and new ones coming, to use… and take action to achieve our best possible healthfulness quotient.

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!