A new framework could help standardize data collection and reporting for wearable activity trackers, researchers report.
Wearable activity trackers are not only popular with consumers, but clinicians commonly use them for both real-time and remote monitoring of patients’ physical fitness, but inconsistency remains a problem.
“Activity trackers capture personalized data that can provide insights in health care analytics and user feedback on health status, for both patients and healthy individuals, but there’s a lack of standardization in reporting on the metrics they generate,” says corresponding author Alexandre Chan, chair and professor of clinical pharmacy practice at the University of California, Irvine.
“These devices may revolutionize health care by allowing researchers to monitor symptom severity and assist clinicians in providing their patients more holistic care and, ultimately, improve people’s quality of life, but the biometric statistics obtained can be highly variable. Our aim is to improve the consistency of reporting.”
The researchers’ recommendations provide a minimum threshold framework for reporting adherence, validity, and physical activity measures in clinical studies.
Several commercial trackers have been used in medical research, with Fitbit being the most common. Brands integrate different sensors—such as accelerometers, global positioning systems, and gyroscopes—into the devices, and various algorithms are used to determine activity outputs, including step count, distance traveled, and sleep patterns.
These personal biometrics are input into each individual’s specific account, which can then be accessed directly or through third-party fitness applications.
The team conducted a systematic review of observational or intervention medical research studies of both healthy and patient populations via the PubMed and Embase databases.
Although they found inconsistencies in measurement and reporting data, commonalities and definitions of the types of activity tracker-derived measures were identified to develop recommended minimum reporting thresholds.
Key metrics were adherence data, or the percentage of days the trackers were worn; validity period, or the adequate wear time per day and per week; and physical activity measures, including step count, acceleration levels, energy expenditure, and intensity.
“With the growing use of activity trackers in clinical research, our framework may help facilitate the development of standardized data collection and reporting. Our recommendations are the first step. Currently, we’re applying our recommendations to a set of medical tracker data that we’ve collected from an international study involving adolescent and young adult cancer patients and volunteers. Future studies will need to evaluate the feasibility of adopting minimum reporting thresholds for data generated by these wearable devices,” Chan says.
The study appears in the International Journal of Medical Informatics. Additional coauthors are from the National University of Singapore and UC Irvine.
Source: UC Irvine