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Wed, Nov 26

Wearable health monitors not quite there yet

As you digest your Thanksgiving feast today, you might be thinking about hitting the sales on Black Friday to buy one of those new wearable health devices you’ve been hearing so much about. You know, those Fitbits, Jawbones, wireless scales, diet apps and (soon) Apple Watches, which promise to be this year’s hot holiday gifts.

Wearable health technology is a burgeoning market already worth billions. More than 200 consumer devices offer to monitor and manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension and to track medications, sleep or weight loss or pregnancy. They’re especially popular for tracking fitness.

Soon, you should be able to walk into a clinic and find someone waiting to discuss health information you gathered and transmitted online. In theory, this should lead to more productive conversations about how much you’ve been exercising, how well you’re managing your blood sugar and so forth. It’s like moving from a Polaroid image to a motion picture.

As a nursing professor who has been studying new “mobile health technologies,” I agree they have great potential. But I also have concerns that affect both consumers planning to buy them and our country’s health care system as a whole.

Read more from Duke University School of Nursing’s Ryan Shaw writing at the News and Observer.