Who doesn’t have a fitness tracker these days? But while many of us (four million to be precise) rely on wearable monitors to keep tabs our health, doctors are concerned they could also fuel anxiety.
The warning comes via a review by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) assessing the impact new technology will have on the health service.
The report raised concerns that wellbeing trackers and their resultant influx of information could send worried users to their doctors unnecessarily, putting pressure on an already strained NHS.
They believe the overwhelming amount of health data could fuel a rise in tech-driven hypochondria.
Richard Kerr, the consultant neurosurgeon who chaired the RCS Future of Surgery Commission’s report said that though the research will say that health wearables offer better opportunities to diagnose and treat patients earlier, there is also a concern they could cause unnecessary alarm.
“The ‘worried well’ will be sent into hyperdrive,” he explained ahead of his presentation about the commission’s work at the Ideal International Conference in Bristol yesterday.
“GP practices and A&Es will undoubtedly see more patients who are concerned about what this information means for them.
“Better early diagnosis is good news for patients. Prevention, or early intervention, is always better than cure. That said, the NHS will need to be ready to handle an influx of patients with potentially valid concerns about their risk of falling ill in the future.”
Kerr also raised concerns about the potential for misdiagnosis health and fitness tech may present.
“Medical professionals will also need to be vigilant to the risk of misdiagnosis and over treatment that this proliferation of personalised health information could bring,” he added.
The news comes as last week it was revealed that research is increasingly finding that 10K steps rule, which is fuelled by fitness trackers, is actually an arbitrary figure based on bad science.
According to Prof David Bassett, head of kinesiology, recreation and sport studies at the University of Tennessee, there wasn’t any scientific basis for the 10K figure.
“They just felt that was a number that was indicative of an active lifestyle and should be healthy,” he told The Guardian.
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