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FOTO Rehab Outcomes Blog

Wearable Technology Harnessed to Improve Health

Earlier this year FitBit Care was chosen as the health platform for Humana employees.

wearable-technology-healthA couple of years ago, I had a patient who reduced his cost for health insurance by participating in a program offered by his employer. The patient reduced his costs by always having an annual physical and staying at a particular activity level. The smart watch was responsible for tracking his amount of activity.

Fitbit Care sounds interesting. Technology has really changed to not only allow activity tracking and social competitions, but to also have coaching built into the app. For the large employers, I can visualize a dashboard of sorts in which every employee has an account within the platform. If the technology is smart enough, the platform can provide alerts as to when an individual's behavior is changing outside of desired parameters.

What I am curious about are the coaches. As we begin to see more and more telehealth options on the market, it seems that we now need to wonder about the coaches. What credentials are required for health coaches? Do the coaches just follow scripts and find scripts to match the situation reflected in the data? Will coaches have a medical background to be able to provide excellent coaching advice?

As I sit here writing this, my mind wanders to some of my patients. All I can say is that life happens. When life happens and a loved one is hospitalized or the employee is ill or the employee is going through a divorce or the employee is a caregiver? As their physical activity is being tracked and monitored, what is in place to take into account life circumstances? There are times in our lives when all we can do is get up in the morning and focus on getting through our day - and truly not have time for ourselves. How accommodating will an employer be to provide assistance for these individuals? I'm thinking like continuing to pay wages, but allow the person to leave and go to the gym or leave and go home an hour earlier to be able to truly eat a healthy meal. For an employer to really be able to help and provide not only coaching, but the support for healthy behaviors may actually mean providing non-traditional support to give time for healthy habits to be maintained when life happens.

The next thing I wonder about: do physical therapists have a role in this coaching care? I mean, so many people are told: exercise. Exercise is just a single word. Exercise prescription is what is needed. Another component involves progression of exercise activities. Quite a few of my patients are a bit fearful when it comes to exercise. We really do have the knowledge and skill to prescribe exercises for sedentary individuals and help progress them to active individuals without incurring injuries.

Until next time,