How Smartwatch & Co. can save lives

Doctors from the Ebersberg District Clinic on the benefits of wearables

Regularly looking at so-called wearables on the wrist can have health benefits, says Prof. Dr. Martin Schmidt and Dr. Daniel Plecity. Photo: kk / sf

Ebersberg · More and more people are using so-called wearables – small computer systems that are worn directly on the body – to improve their fitness level. Doctors have for a long time tested how the smart leisure helpers can also be used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

The possibilities are explained by Prof. Dr. Martin Schmidt, chief physician in cardiology at the Ebersberg District Clinic, and Dr. Daniel Plecity, chief physician and nutritionist in internal medicine.

They both even carry smartwatches. What are your experiences?

Plecity: I do a lot of sports and find it helpful that the unit suggests training plans for the day. In addition, I can use the measured values ​​to assess my physical condition. The smartwatch knows if I’ve had enough sleep, it reminds me to drink enough fluid, it measures my blood oxygen saturation, and all these values ​​say something about whether my ‘batteries’ are charged and I’m productive. If not, I should take countermeasures.

Smith: I always wear the smartwatch during the day, especially when I play sports, and let it record and analyze my daily activities. I have set my daily goals for the “Move”, “Exercise” and “Stand” functions. During the day, the smartwatch sends push notifications, which I have already managed to do, which I find very motivating.

Have you ever checked how accurate the records are?

Smith: Yes, I checked the distance measurement on a 400 meter track at the sports stadium and found a deviation of about ten percent. When it comes to calorie consumption information, one should definitely expect a deviation of ten to 20 percent. However, one value is very reliable, as studies have shown: heart rate. An electrode is integrated in my model, which enables a single-channel ECG recording. In addition, an optical sensor measures heart rate and can use algorithms to detect an irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation can also be easily recognized in this way.

Does this mean that wearing a wearable can help prevent serious heart disease?

Smith: Smartwatches with a good ECG function yes. They may also detect other heart rhythm problems, such as heart failure. During such ‘breaks’, the affected person often faints. Implanting a pacemaker would possibly be the solution to the health problem. There are currently many clinical trials testing medical use of wearables and we are involved in one of them. It is about early detection of atrial fibrillation compared to conventional ECG.

Plecity: You need to distinguish between different types of wearables. Thanks to their complex features, smartwatches are all-rounder, but there are also special wearables, such as smart patches for diabetics. These are patches with integrated sensors that measure blood sugar levels. In the future, the smart helpers will administer the required amount of insulin indirectly when needed. There are also heart rate or sports watches, fitness and activity meters, which have different functions depending on the model. In addition to heart rate and heart rate, some devices also monitor sleep rhythm, physical activity, and calorie consumption.

Which patients can benefit from it?

Plecity: For example, patients with a metabolic syndrome. Several diseases are summarized under the term: obesity, high blood pressure and disorders of sugar and lipid metabolism. The reason is often in the lifestyle: too high calorie intake and too little exercise.

Does this mean that a fitness tracker can help patients change their behavior?

Plecity: Yes exactly. It in no way replaces the doctor, but it can provide support. As a preventative measure, I recommend everyone who suffers from obesity, osteoarthritis or high blood pressure to use a wearable that warns if you have been lazy, because exercise is good therapy for all the mentioned diseases. However, if you are overweight, a few steps a day is not enough. Our cardiovascular system needs movement stress, 150 minutes of physical activity per week and therefore an increase in heart rate to be able to build muscle. And the more muscle mass there is, the more calories are burned and weight loss is possible.

What conclusions do you draw from your personal experiences and research results?

Smith: In cardiology, we will increase the monitoring in the outpatient clinic, ie the regular measurement of relevant values ​​such as heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, blood pressure and weight in heart patients in order to counteract problems in good time. A telemedicine study from the Charité in Berlin (TIM-HF study) has shown that this can reduce both the number of hospital stays and the mortality of patients with heart failure. In addition, our heart failure unit (HFU) was certified in February.
The purpose of this unit is more intensive treatment of patients with severe heart disease by a specially trained team of doctors and nurses in collaboration with the German Heart Center in Munich and the Center for Heart Transplants at Ludwig Maximilian University. There are four beds available for this, two at HFU and two in the intensive care unit. Another goal is to network with established colleagues in the Ebersberg district, so that patients receive the best possible aftercare even after their 24-hour stay in the district clinic. Here again, wearables can provide support because patients’ everyday diet and training behaviors contribute significantly to the success of the therapy.

Sybille Föll conducted the interview

Article from 05/03/2022

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