My PhD thesis has just been published. Below is a synopsis. Find the thesis here.
Apps and wearables are promising new data sources for tailoring healthcare towards individual patients. But how can doctors make use of these data? This research identified challenges of using data generated by consumer health technologies and how these challenge could be overcome by including doctors in the design of appropriate clinical information systems.
Fitbit and Apple Health are two popular consumer technologies amongst a growing plethora of wearables and smartphone apps for recording diverse aspects of health. From heart rate and physical activity, to sleep and mood, these devices collect data with potential to help clinicians diagnose disease, personalise treatments to individual patients, and avoid delivering unnecessary medical procedures.
While medical records only store information about small snapshots of patients' lives within clinical settings, consumer health technology could provide intimate details of patients' routines and habits outside of clinical settings.
To tailor health and care towards patients it is important to know what happens in between clinical visits. These technologies could help fill these gaps between clinical visits. Healthcare could therefore benefit from utilising these data to reduce costs associated with monitoring chronic illness. Realising this potential is vital as we enter an era of ageing population and rising healthcare costs.
There are three main challenges to using consumer health technology acknowledged in wider academic literature:
These challenges have been faced before. Electronic medical records have had significant challenges to their adoption within clinics because they disrupted workflows. By working with clinicians in designing electronic medical records, many of these challenges have been overcome.
Possibly the most important strategy to addressing the challenges of consumer health technology is to include those who will be using their data: clinicians. Clinicians are the people who meet the patients and who the patients will ultimately hand their data to. It may therefore be their role to interpret and analyse patient-generated data.
A lot was learned about electronic medical records when they were deployed in clinical settings because clinicians provided their feedback on how electronic medical records could be used, and the problems they encountered.
For my research, I conducted interviews and workshops with 13 clinicians with various roles, including cardiology, general practice, and mental health. In the workshops, we co-designed a software-based tool for using self-tracked data within the management of heart conditions.
The prototype addressed the main concerns of consumer health technology:
Download the thesis