‘Wearables’ worry doctors, patients too dependent on technology

Bengaluru: Wearable technical gadgets may be the new "in thing," especially in healthcare, but they come with their own disadvantages. Devices like Fit-bit, Pebble, Apple watch and others monitor different aspects of an individual's health like blood pressure and breathing rate and even include an inbuilt ECG that picks up on heart arrhythmias and is a first line of monitoring for people with heart conditions. But city doctors are worried about patients' increasing dependency on these wearable devices, which they have so much faith in that some even skip their mandatory health check-ups.

While calling the devices "convenient," the doctors warn that they cannot be a substitute for a regular heart check-up in a proper clinic or hospital under the guidance and supervision of a cardiologist. 

"These devices are useful for motivation and to offer information that may prompt the patient to get a check-up done by a doctor, but they cannot be used for more than that," they underline.

Explains Dr. Kishore K S, consultant cardiologist and head of the department of cardiology at Sagar Hospitals, "Even though a smart watch armed with an electrocardiogram (ECG), a test that measures the electrical activity of your heartbeat, is a splendid technological innovation, it cannot be a replacement for a consultation with your doctor as every device comes with its own limitations."

Agreeing, Dr. Gnanadev, consultant cardiologist at BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals, says people suffering from heart diseases must especially not rely entirely on these devices. "Many of these devices that are being used frequently by people to monitor blood pressure, heart rate or similar parameters are not recommended by international medical societies. They should be used only as a complementary for real monitoring," he emphasises.

Dr. Vivek Jawali, chief cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon and chairman, department of cardio vascular sciences at Fortis Hospitals, notes that these wearable devices do not have all the screening features of a  lab test or health check-up at a hospital or clinic. "You could use them to track your daily activity to improve your health, but if someone is suffering from a chronic disease, he/she must have a regular health check-up and consult a doctor to be on the  safer side," he says.

Doctors stress that such caution is necessary as heart disease is responsible for one-third of all deaths among those over 40 in Karnataka.

"Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in India, with the country accounting for one-fifth of all such deaths globally. In Karnataka, more than one-third (37 per cent) of all deaths among those over 40 are attributed to cardiovascular diseases," they observe.


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