Health or Hype: Do Health Gadgets and Apps Really Work?

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The influx of new health apps and gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year is every indication that the Quantified Self not going away any time soon. The CTA reported that 1 in 10 households owns wearable fitness trackers. Since 2014, there has been a reported 40% growth in exhibit space for digital health products on the floor at CES.

The continued growth of digital and mobile innovation along with the Internet of Things has entrepreneurs and tech giants alike chomping at the bit to transform health care…or have their piece of the pie.

Overview of Devices Today

Here’s a quick overview of what has flooded the market for health and fitness in the past few years:

  • Activity trackers: Think step trackers like FitBit and apps like Moves; Sleep tracking apps like Pillow
  • Sensors: Think heart rate and blood pressure monitors; running coaches; training coaches like GymWatch
  • Connected lifestyle devices: In the beginning there were scales like Withings, and now there are smart fridges, and even clothing and shoes (!)

The Data Deluge

We’re in the age of the consumerization of healthcare and the masses are coming to understand what we at WellnessFX were founded upon – if you have the data, you are empowered to influence the outcomes.

The danger with these devices? The creation and proliferation of data is hitting critical mass now, which leaves the potential for these devices to be nothing more than time consuming or overwhelming, rendering them ineffective.

Numbers on a page – real or digital – are just that: Numbers on a page. They don’t naturally encourage change – there is no automatic intrinsic connection to the data.

Maybe instead of asking what the next new device is, the questions to ask are that if we increasingly have the opportunity to track everything and anything our hearts desire – should we? Are we tracking to much for it to be constructive to growth and improvement? How and can we save ourselves from drowning in the data deluge?

Bottom Line: Health if You’re Prepared, Hype if You’re Not

Gadgets are only part of the solution. One size does not fit all (as we know from personal systems biology – it’s why we test so specifically and across a range of panels).

On the other side of gadgets, apps and potions (the What) is intention, habit formation and activity/outcome-based goal setting – the Why.

Integral to determining whether or not something “works” for you will be if you know exactly, specifically, what you’re trying to accomplish, and then whether or not the data is presented in a meaningful way that helps you then employ the habits that translate the data into something actionable.

Tips to Choosing Your Next Health Apps or Gadgets

A few pointers to help guide you in choosing a device – be it your first, or next:

  • Context: Is the data easy to read and understand where you fit into your overall big picture goal or is it stand alone, leaving you to fend for yourself to interpret each time you glance? A blinking 3-digit number readout is not the same as a color coded chart or sparkline. Look for visualized data.
  • Comprehensive: Is there potential to sync to other goals and aspects of your health journey? i.e. Are you tracking your weight on scale/piece of paper and recording your steps on another device, and logging your food in a separate app? Effective change is easier to make when you can see correlation and pinpoint problem areas. Look for data that widens the scope to encompass the additional, corresponding areas you’re working on.
  • Conclusive: Is it helping you connect the dots of the work you’re doing to the impact you’re having? How will you know? Look for data that benchmarks dates and milestones, for easy correlation.

How WellnessFX Can Help

Everyone’s internal makeup, just like their exterior, is unique. Everyone holds their own set of individual biomarkers and risk factors. Gadgets do, however, complement the overall picture. When combined with comprehensive lab testing and the creation and sustainment of healthy habits, it pieces together the puzzle to unlock total body health.

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For topics we’ve written about related to Habits, check out:

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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.