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Nov 15, 2019

Wearable Monitors Show Promise for Heart Failure Management

Smartwatches and other wearable devices may be the future of heart failure management.

Wearable devices may be the future of heart failure management, based on a recent article in JAMA: Heart Failure that reviews the potential of wearable sensors for improving heart failure care. In the article, authors conclude that data is limited but devices show promise in monitoring health and improving outcomes.

Heart failure is a chronic condition that occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body. It requires lifelong management to manage symptoms, slow disease progression and prevent complications.

Wearable devices are a new wave of health tools that collect patients’ health data outside of the doctor’s office. They can include accessories or clothing and use sensors to track markers of health and physical activity from the comfort of home.

Wearable devices like the Apple watch and FitBit are already available to consumers and often used to track things like sleep and physical activity. However, the potential of wearable devices is far-reaching when it comes to health, according to experts.

In the recent article, experts note that wearable sensors have been tested for a variety of uses, such as monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, and even the volume of fluid in the lungs. As such, they have great potential in chronic disease management—especially for patients with heart failure.

According to authors, wearable monitors can track vital signs like heart rate to help determine if patients are eligible for certain therapies. Monitors can also help clinicians know how well therapies are working and identify issues that require immediate treatment. Together, this data can help better manage symptoms and improve outcomes.

For example, one study of 50 heart failure patients showed that a wearable vest monitoring lung fluid helped reduce hospital readmissions by 87%. A small chest patch also proved effective in assessing the severity of heart failure. Studies also suggest that pills with ingestible sensors could track medication adherence in patients with chronic disease.

However, authors note that evidence of the effects of these new technologies is sparse in patients with heart failure. Existing technologies like watches and armbands have proven successful in tracking physical activity among patients with heart failure. But according to experts, there’s not enough data to determine which devices are effective in improving outcomes or survival. Certain technologies also might not be practical in older adults—among whom heart failure is common—as many patients don’t have smartphones or feel comfortable using new technology.

Still, the possibilities of wearable devices are endless and are likely to play an important role in both health promotion and disease management. With future research, experts hope to continue to explore the possibilities.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is heart failure?

  • Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Although there is no cure for heart failure, treatments such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help improve outcomes as well as quality of life.
  • How is heart failure treated?

  • Heart failure is often treated with a combination of medications, medical devices, medical procedures and lifestyle changes. Increasing exercise in combination with these treatments can significantly help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life in heart failure patients.

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