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Study shows little evidence that wearable biosensors aid clinical outcomes

The devices, which automatically transmit health data, have the potential to support remote patient monitoring but better research is needed to prove their efficacy.

While wearable biosensors have the potential to gather health data to support remote patient monitoring, there is a lack of medical evidence that these devices improve clinical outcomes.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles note the popularity of wearable biosensors for health and fitness applications such as activity trackers, blood pressure monitors and sleep assessment. But, as Michelle Keller, clinical research specialist at the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education, contends, “There is a big difference between using these sensors to track sleep for self-betterment and using them to make medical decisions.”

While their analysis found that the wearable biosensors did show early promise in improving outcomes for certain conditions, including obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson's disease, hypertension and low back pain, researchers revealed that remote patient monitoring with these devices had no statistically significant impact on any of six reported clinical outcomes—body mass index, weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage, as well as systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

The non-invasive devices—which automatically transmit real-time health data—are seen as having tremendous promise when it comes to remote patient monitoring, improving the timeliness of care, boosting treatment adherence and driving better health outcomes. However, better research is needed to demonstrate their efficacy, according to investigators conducting a recent study.

Those are among the findings of a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials conducted by researchers at Cedars-Sinai. Results of the study were published this week in the peer-reviewed online journal npj Digital Medicine.

“We found substantial gaps in the evidence base that should be considered before implementation of remote patient monitoring in the clinical setting,” state the study’s co-authors. “Patients, clinicians and health system leaders should proceed with caution before implementing and using RPM to reliably change clinical outcomes.”

Also See: Wearable tech enables hospital to deliver care at home

“As of now, we don't have enough evidence that they consistently change clinical outcomes in a meaningful way,” added Brennan Spiegel, MD, senior author of the study and director of Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research. “But that doesn’t mean they can’t.”

In fairness, Benjamin Noah, lead author and a clinical research associate at the Center for Outcomes Research and Education, points out that “many of the studies we reviewed were still in the pilot phase,” adding that “there just is not enough data yet.”

“Given that many of these studies were described as pilot studies, it is clear that the field of RPM is relatively new and evolving,” conclude the authors. “Larger studies with multiple intervention groups will be able to better distinguish which components are most effective and whether behavior change can be sustained over time using RPM.”

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