As activity tracking devices become smaller, cheaper, and more consumer-accessible, they will be used more extensively across a wide variety of contexts. The expansion of activity tracking and personal data collection offers the potential for patient engagement in the management of chronic diseases. Consumer wearable devices for activity tracking have shown promise in post-surgery recovery in cardiac patients, pulmonary rehabilitation, and activity counseling in diabetic patients, among others. Unfortunately, the data generated by wearable devices is seldom integrated into programmatic self-management chronic disease regimens. In addition, there is lack of evidence supporting sustained use or effects on health outcomes, as studies have primarily focused on establishing the feasibility of monitoring activity and the association of measured activity with short-term benefits.
Monitoring devices can make a direct and real-time impact on self-management, but the validity and reliability of measurements need to be established. In order for patients to become engaged in wearable data gathering, key patient-centered issues relating to usefulness in care, motivation, the safety and privacy of information, and clinical integration need to be addressed. Because the successful usage of wearables requires an ability to comprehend and utilize personal health data, the user experience should account for individual differences in numeracy skills and apply evidence-based behavioral science principles to promote continued engagement.
Activity monitoring has the potential to engage patients as advocates in their personalized care, as well as offer health care providers real world assessments of their patients’ daily activity patterns. This potential will be realized as the voice of the chronic disease patients is accounted for in the design of devices, measurements are validated against existing clinical assessments, devices become part of the treatment ‘prescription’, behavior change programs are used to engage patients in self-management, and best practices for clinical integration are defined.