- Data collected through digital step trackers may accurately reflect the exercise capacity and symptoms of patients with lung disease, a new study from Intermountain Healthcare suggests.
- The devices could provide an alternative to six-minute walking tests, which are typically conducted in clinical settings to measure the health status of patients with diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the researchers, who presented their findings this week at the European Respiratory Society International Congress meeting in Madrid.
- The results highlight the potential of activity trackers and other monitoring devices to alert providers more quickly to changes in a patient's medical condition than would be possible with periodic tests conducted in a clinical setting, possibly leading to less expensive, more convenient care. The researchers cautioned that the sample size studied was small and broad conclusions should not be drawn, however.
Using fitness trackers, such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, to monitor the health status of patients with chronic diseases is gaining steam as doctors and hospitals strive to provide more convenient and less expensive care to patients.
And vendors are lining up to provide monitoring platforms coupled with other care management services to patients and providers.
For example, Fitbit is launching a paid service, called Fitbit Premium, which includes personalized wellness reports based on activity, heart rate, sleep and weight fluctuations. The company also plans to pilot a coaching program later this year for patients with chronic diseases.
Livongo, Onduo, and Omada Health also market connected-care platforms for patients with chronic diseases.
For the Intermountain study, researchers analyzed data on 20 patients with a history of having respiratory symptoms during days with elevated air pollution. The patients wore fitness trackers on their wrists for 12 weeks, filled out surveys about their symptoms and completed weekly six-minute walking tests. Researchers found that their analysis of the fitness tracker data correlated with the results from the walking tests and patient surveys.
Conducting research on how to improve patient outcomes less expensively is just one way Intermountain is adapting to value-based care models that pay providers based on the cost and quality of the services they provide to patients.
The health system also operates a homecare program for its most complex and chronically ill patients. With a goal of helping patients live at home and avoid hospital stays, Intermountain at Home includes virtual visits with providers and remote monitoring.
In July, Intermountain launched a new company, Castell, which will consult with payers and providers about how to operate in value-based care models. Castell offers best practices based on the health system's experience leveraging prevention-focused primary care and other services as well as analytical tools and digital resources addressing virtual care, patient experience and social determinants of health.