At CES 2018, it's clear technology is expanding health care beyond the doctor's office. A world of connected devices can track your vital signs, take an EKG or monitor your exposure to UV rays. That data might lead to guidance for patients trying to build up healthy habits, or to insights that help doctors do their jobs.
But there's such a thing as too much information, and that was the biggest concern experts raised at a Tuesday panel on connected health care, moderated by CNET. Too much data could become a distraction in a field that's crunched for time and resources.
"It helps me if the data isn't overwhelming me," said Ian Tong, the chief medical officer at Doctor on Demand, a service that provides appointments with doctors over video. "It has to be in context and it has to be useful."
What's more, handing raw data to doctors isn't always going to be the best use of the information collected by wearable health devices.
"You can capture insights that aren't necessarily medically relevant yet," said Eri Gentry, a researcher at nonprofit research group the Institute for the Future, adding that smart homes and connected cars are rich environments for collecting information.
Gentry said the medical tech industry will need to use algorithms and artificial intelligence, recording health data first and then crunching the numbers to find patterns.
Doctors also have to keep in mind the source of the data. Most importantly, they need to take into account whether it was collected by a device that's gone through the strict and lengthy approval process of the US Food and Drug Administration.
Still, David Rhew, a medical doctor who's the head of health care and fitness at Samsung America, said doctors don't necessarily have to discount data that isn't guaranteed precise by the FDA.
For example, Rhew said, while a smartwatch might be off by a small amount when taking a patient's pulse, a doctor could still use the reading to figure out that an unconscious person has a heart rate within normal bounds.
"Even though these are not FDA devices, there's information we can glean from them," Rhew said.
If that information is used in a smart way, with context and a certain amount of analysis, then it can make doctors who are already highly qualified more effective, said Brooke Basinger, the technical lead for ophthalmic hardware at Verily, an Alphabet company that focuses on health data.
"If we can feed some of that information to the Harvard cardiologist, for example," Basinger said, "they have more information to make more nuanced, more insightful decisions."
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