Role of Wearable Devices in Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative


As the dust begins to settle on President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address, more details are beginning to emerge about the Precision Medicine Initiative. Precision medicine is an innovative, individualized, approach to provide clinicians with tools to better understand the complex mechanisms underlying a particular patient’s health.

A major component of this initiative is the development of a voluntary national research cohort. Volunteers would anonymously link medical records, genetic readouts, organ vital details, lifestyle information, and data from wearable devices. 

If successful, the initiative would produce more patient-powered data, allowing clinicians to expand the scope of studies beyond the hospital. However, one fairly large hurdle seems to be downplayed. Data collected from wearable devices is still being tested. Current studies are unclear as how meaningful the information extracted is or the interoperability of it.

Regardless, the potential for precision medicine through wearable devices has only just begun, and initial findings have been promising. Recent research funded by the International Spine Study Group, utilized Fitbit tracking information to monitor the activity of minimally invasive spinal surgery patients. Zachary Smith, MD., a principal investigator in the study, believes that the regained function of a patient can be monitored “objectively, numerically, and continuously” with wearable devices.

Other studies of wearable devices have produced similar results. The Mayo Clinic published a 2013 study of cardiac surgery patients who used the self-assessment tool to recover from surgery faster and drive down readmissions. Monitoring progress matters, and these early research studies prove that to be true.

Driving data collection through patient-powered devices will allow hospitals to work hand-in-hand with patients to improve their own health outcomes. The Precision Medicine Initiative is a big step for both the hospital and patient to move past one-size-fits-all techniques and fuel the development of new treatments for each individual. A new era of data-based research will emerge. Faster recovery times, shorter length of stays, and lower readmission rates are on the horizon… How is your hospital helping this development?