Doctors lack capacity to review fitness app data

Doctors lack the capacity or tools to review or instantaneously interpret data from lifestyle, fitness or food tracking mobile apps, says a new study.

Researchers from the University of Washington surveyed 211 patients and interviewed 21 doctors, dieticians and other health care providers about their expectations on how patients’ self-tracking data should be shared and used.

“We’ve heard doctors say more and more that people bring this data into the clinic and they’re just overwhelmed by it,” said lead author Christina Chung.

“When you’re managing chronic disease or symptoms, day-to-day lifestyle tracking data can be useful, but doctors don’t have a way to use these data efficiently and effectively,” she added.

The researchers surveyed patients and providers who manage irritable bowel syndrome or overweight and obese patients, conditions that commonly involve tracking aspects of food consumption, lifestyle behaviours and symptoms.

Providers who asked patients to keep paper diaries or suggested specific tracking tools often found the resulting information helpful in diagnosing triggers or arriving at effective treatments.

However, doctors reported they were more challenged by data-tracking efforts.

Co-author Jasmine Zia said it’s also important that the data is credible and this requires studies or validation to show that they can trust the technology’s analysis.

“As a provider, you feel pressurised because you want to help and interpret the data that people are bringing to you, but every format is different and the data is not validated,” Zia said.

“One thing I’d say to app developers that there really needs to be a summary page that’s quick to look at and can be interpreted in two to five minutes. Right now patients just print out logs and that don’t work,” she added.

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