Like It Or Not, Personal Health Technology Is Getting Smarter

With sensors that can collect data on body movements, heart rate, blood pressure and other metrics, the list of health trackers that go beyond activity trackers like Fitbits gets longer each year.

“There’s definitely an explosion of these things,” says Dr. Joseph Kvedar, the vice president for connected health at Partners HealthCare in Boston, and an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.

Some of these devices will lead to a better health care system, Kvedar predicts, with cheaper, more efficient care. But that will take separating useful devices and data from superfluous ones — no easy task. And not everyone believes the changes that personal health trackers are bringing will be good. The clinical accuracy and privacy of many devices remain unproved.

“In a practical sense the implementation of this is still quite problematic,” says Lukasz Piwek, a data scientist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.

Still, that recent developments have made personal health tracking more powerful is undeniable, even to skeptics.

“The accuracy is getting better, Piwek says. “Maybe two or three years ago it was more a problematic issue.” The machine learning algorithms are getting better at picking out complex patterns from the noise, he says.

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