Wearable health technology refers to any health monitoring devices worn on the body that measure and record health data.

This data typically includes heart rates, blood pressure, sleep patterns and activity or “steps”.

These devices, most commonly watches but also including straps, rings and other wearables, have soared in popularity in recent years thanks to technological advancements and a raised consciousness and appreciation of the importance of health.

But how accurate are wearable health technology devices and can their information really assist your GP? 

Popular wearable devices in Australia

There is no shortage of options in what is a hotly contested and rapidly expanding field.

Google, Huawei, Fossil, Michael Kors, WHOOP and Oura are among the cascade of brands vying for your attention and dollars.

But as of September 2023, Australia’s biggest-selling wearable health tech devices were:

Apple Smart Watch – with a 48 per cent market share, Apple is comfortably the favoured device of Australian consumers.

It notifies users if their heartbeat rises above 120bpm or falls below 40bpm while inactive for 10 minutes.

It claims it can detect atrial fibrillation with an 88.6 per cent success rate.

The smart watch also has a fall detector and allows users to track their medications.

Fitbit – Australia’s second most popular device, with a 28 per cent market share, is rated by many review sites as the best.

It measures skin temperature, sleep, menstrual cycles, takes your ECG and tracks your heart rate around the clock.

Fitbit even boasts a real-time stress tracker and advises wearers about how to lower it.

Samsung Galaxy Watch – with a 20 per cent share, the Samsung has a snore detector so you can verify what your partner is telling you. It will even record it for you as evidence!

The Samsung also scans your body in 15 seconds. It reports on your skeletal muscle mass, fat mass, body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) among a plethora of related data.

Garmin – with 13 per cent of sales, Garmin is the last brand in double figure territory in Australia.

It is fitness-focussed, reporting calories burned and measures your breathing, energy and stress levels.

The benefits of wearable devices for your health

Monitoring your health is essential and any device that allows you to do that is valuable.

These devices are also a great storage tool for your health data. They keep relevant information in a safe and compact place that can also be shared with appropriate partners such as your GP.

By observing the data captured by these devices, you gain valuable personal insights and become more self-aware, helping you to track, manage and even take preventative health measures.

Or you may be able to address a specific health issue earlier than you would otherwise have done.

The limitations of wearable devices

It’s important to remember that regardless of any claims made by the manufacturers of these devices, they are not medical instruments and cannot replace them.

Use the data they offer as a guide but don’t ever take it all as gospel.

If your fitness tracker suggests you have a heart issue, you would be crazy not to book an immediate appointment with your GP.

But only a qualified medical professional in tandem with medical heart monitors can be relied upon to give you an accurate assessment of your cardiac health.

Some watches, including the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, claim to take accurate blood pressure readings with the use of a blood pressure cuff.

It is important to appreciate that these readings are susceptible to basic user errors.

In addition, the watch needs to be calibrated every month for the most accurate readings.

Privacy concerns for wearable devices

In recent years, some of the world’s biggest corporations have been subjected to damaging and expensive cyber attacks.

Don’t ever assume that your personal information is not vulnerable.

Data is a commodity and yours can be targeted if someone finds a buyer.

To give your data the best chance of protection, always use strong passwords with two-factor authentication and regularly update your devices’ software.

Enable encryption on your devices and only share your data with apps and services you trust.

Will the data assist your GP?

Wearable health technology devices can assist your doctor in a number of ways and if you have wear one, you should offer its data to your GP.

Supporting evidence – data can be useful to support symptoms reported by patients. This may lead to further testing, more accurate diagnoses and better treatment plans.

Remote monitoring – the devices allow doctors to collect and monitor data on patients between visits, allowing them to track their progress and if necessary take appropriate action.

Medication adherence – reminders and alerts help patients better adhere to courses of medication. This improves the efficacy of treatment plans and provides better outcomes.

Chronic disease management – wearable devices are particularly valuable for patients suffering chronic disease by collecting real-time data on vital signs and symptoms. This gives doctors and patients the best chance of proactive intervention when necessary, preventing potential complications. 

Book an appointment with a doctor in Seaford

There is no doubt wearable health technology devices have a role to play in a person’s overall health management plan.

But it is important to appreciate they should be used in partnership with your GP – so let your doctor know that you are tracking health data and share when appropriate.

These devices provide reams of useful data which your GP can examine for any irregularities.

The future is likely to bring even more sophisticated devices offering new information and promising even higher degrees of accuracy.

At AHA Clinics, we embrace new technologies.

We are always excited about exploring new avenues to improve health outcomes for patients at our clinics.

But when it comes to your health, there is no substitute for the wisdom and guidance of a qualified GP.

Anyone who chooses to rely on the output of a smart watch rather than visiting their doctor could be taking their life into their own hands – or at least wearing it on their wrist.

Doctors at AHA don’t simply send you a notification when they sense a health issue.

They listen intently when you describe your symptoms, asking relevant questions.

They will potentially book further diagnostic tests and formulate a strategy to have you back in tip top shape as soon as possible.

Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.